Black Forest homeowner likes concept of fireproofing, but not the cost


Black Forest homeowner likes concept of fireproofing, but not the cost

22 July 2013

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USA — Stafford Brochu, 75, has considered the costs of fireproofing as he rebuilds his 5,200 square foot stucco home that was destroyed by the Black Forest fire in June.

A heat-activated indoor sprinkler system would cost around $30,000, Brochu said. “And that doesn’t include the cost of the generator” to run the sprinklers if firefighters had to shut down electricity. “We’re talking a lot of money.”

Among the approximately 250 Black Forest property owners who have received building permits from the Pikes Peak Regional Building authority, Brochu is the farthest along in rebuilding.

At his charred lot, there is no hydrant or other water supply that firefighters could use to try to defend against wildfire. One option for the future could be lining a hole Brochu dug to create a pond.

“Again, you’re talking quite a bit of expense,” he said.

And even if he could afford a liner, diverting rainwater off the roof to fill the pond would not be allowed in Colorado, he said. “That would be obstructing the natural flow of water.”

So, in the event of a future wildfire threatening his re-built home, Brochu said, he’ll have to rely again on firefighters hauling water.

However, Brochu said he’s planning to side his new house non-flammable stucco and will use a composite decking material. He also planned to re-construct a soil retaining wall outside the house using cement blocks instead of railroad ties.

Fire codes for construction in El Paso County apparently will not require aggressive fire-proofing of homes that are being rebuilt. Black Fore Fire Rescue chief Bob Harvey said it would not be fair to saddle people trying to rebuild with costly new requirements — especially now that Black Forest has burned.

Brochu built his house 13 years ago. The wind-whipped Black Forest fire destroyed it, rocketing embers under his wooden deck, igniting the structure. In all, the fire burned 486 homes and charred about 14,000 acres.

“When I built it, I never thought twice. We’d never had a situation like this before,” said Brochu, a cabinet-maker for 37 years who moved to Colorado from Canada in the 1960s.

He favors voluntary fireproofing of communities, to the extent affordable, in the future, he said.

“But it is very difficult to get everybody to cooperate. If you only have a few people doing it, you aren’t going to eliminate the hazard,” he said. “And you can’t force people to do things that are very expensive. It’s going to have to be on a voluntary basis. It would help the situation quite a bit.”

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