Fuel Breaks

Before fuel treatment


after fuel treatment


Shaded fuel breaks act as strategic "defensible landscape" to reduce fire speed and severity, and to improve suppression by ground crews and air attack. The purposes of strategic fuel modification are to separate communities or groups of structures from the native vegetation and break up large expanses of flammable fuel into smaller blocks, all with the purpose of reducing fire loss and damage.

A modified shaded fuel break is defined as a defensible location, where fuels have been modified, that can be used by fire suppression resources to suppress oncoming wildfires. Any fuel break by itself will NOT stop a wildfire. It is a location where the fuel has been modified to increase the probability of success for fire suppression activities. Ground resources can use the location for direct attack or setting back fires. Air resources can use the location for fire retardant drops. The public and fire resources can use the location for more efficient ingress and egress. Fuel breaks are placed in strategic locations along a ridge, access road, or other location such as around a subdivision.

The objective of a shaded fuel break is to reduce, modify, and manage fuels within designated areas in order to enhance mitigation efforts in the event of a wildland fire situation. A shaded fuel break does not remove all vegetation in a given area. A shaded fuel break provides more fire protection and improves forest health.  

The most advantageous location and design must be individually determined after considering fuels, topography, weather, exposures and other constructed or planned improvements. Soil stabilization, erosion prevention measures and long-term maintenance requirements must receive thorough consideration during the planning and construction phase.


Credit www.firesafesanmateo.org

Before and after fuel treatment.

Before and after fuel treatment.

Lee Hill Fuel Break

This project was completed during the summer of 2013 on a private property on Lee Hill Road. The before and after pictures show a significant reduction in both ladder fuels and canopy cover, turning a dense and unhealthy forest into an open park-like Ponderosa/Douglas-fir woodland. The project targeted diseased and damaged trees first, and then removed additional trees to create separation between surface and canopy fuels and canopy itself. The dog-hair stand (a vastly overstocked forest) before the project was the result of humans moving into the wildland-urban interface and actively suppressing fires that had once been frequent (about every 30 years) in the foothills of Boulder County. Without fire the forest became more susceptible to not only hazardous and unnatural wildfires that destroy homes and devastate ecosystems, but also other disease and infestation. With reduced competition the remaining trees stand a better chance of fighting off disease, bark beetles, mistletoe, and drought. Most importantly the forest ecosystem could survive future wildfires preserving forest health and the home owner’s property value.

The home owners who commissioned this project have had a broadminded approach to mitigation and have mitigated about five acres of their land. In the event of a fire, firefighters have a stronger chance of being able to save the house and also the land because of a lower possibility of extreme fire behavior. In addition to a reduction in fire risk the home owners have expressed other advantages such as attractive aesthetic quality and a friendly area for recreation such as hiking and cross country skiing. These five acres have been transformed from a dangerous, ailing and inaccessible forest to an open, safer and picturesque forest.


The crew serves as the emergency response team responding to emergencies in the Boulder Mountain Fire Protection District, and also to neighboring fire districts. These may include wildland fires, medical emergencies, structure fires, vehicle accidents, and search and rescue operations. So if the crew working on your land disappears rapidly during the day, please be patient, they will return to the job site as soon as possible. We are grateful for your support which allows us to maintain this crew on duty during the work day when most of the BMFPD volunteers are at work.