County to present Defensible Space at fire conference

County to present Defensible Space at fire conference

5 February 2005


Los Alamos County and PA Smith Concepts and Design will present their award winning Defensible Space Project at a national fire conference in Albuquerque.

Deputy Fire Chief Doug Tucker and PA Smith Project Manager Nicole Coons will present the project at the National Fire Plan Conference held Feb. 16-18.

The Defensible Space Project was initiated in response to the Cerro Grande Fire in May 2000 and addresses the reduction of wildfire risk. The project helped protect 2,348 properties in the county from future wildfire threats, as 70 percent of eligible homeowners participated. The concept of defensible space calls for a significant safety zone space between homes and fire fuels, such as brush and trees.

“When we took on the project we knew it would be a community-based project and without their assistance it wouldn’t have happened,” Tucker said. “Without them this would have just been a project on paper.”

Tucker and Coons will discuss several options for implementing a community-wide defensible space program in wildland-urban interface communities that explains how to get residents and community members actively involved in protecting their homes.

“We’re excited about presenting in Albuquerque,” Tucker said. “It’s easy to talk about something you’re passionate about. We’re trying to be more proactive than reactive.”

Coons said the Defensible Space Project had a budget of $6.5 million, of which, $5.9 million was spent.

“A lot of other fire agencies have considerably smaller budgets,” she said. “We had the opportunity to learn so much that we didn’t know before. It’s our obligation to share this type of project with other communities.”

Coons said some of the community lessons learned included informing the public that removing dead trees infested by the bark beetle was not within the scope of the Defensible Space Project.

“People just assumed that if it was dead, it needed to be removed,” Coons said. “Because we didn’t recognize this early on, there was a lot of frustration about the bark beetle.”

Coons said she would share this information at the conference.

Also involved with the project in regard to defensible space planning and education was the Davey Resource Group, based out of Kent, Ohio. Tree contractors Bacas Trees Inc., of Albuquerque and Trees Inc. of Houston were also part of the project.

The conference is presented by the International Association of Fire Chiefs and includes other topics such as Challenges and Solutions between Public and Private Land Ownership and Fire Prevention in the Wildland-Urban Interface: A Case Study.

Besides Los Alamos presenters, another speaker from the state includes Shelly Nolde, wildland-urban interface specialist with the City of Santa Fe Fire Department. Nolde will present Living with Drought, Fire and the Bark Beetle: One Community’s Response to a Catastrophic Natural Event.

The IAFC can be found online at 


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