About the Wildland Urban Interface
Establishment of the Wildland Urban Interface
Teton County is known for expansive vistas and large swaths of forested lands managed by private and public entities. Fires has historically been a natural part of the environment. As the valley watched the 1988 Yellowstone Fires many realized if it could happen there, it could happen here. A group of fire managers began work to study fire on the landscape; mapping the interface between forest areas and homes referred to as the wildland urban interface (WUI), forming the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition (TAWPC), and writing a community wildfire protection plan (CWPP).
As new construction pushed into the interface areas, codes pertaining to fire resistant construction within these higher hazard fire areas would help prevent structure loss in the event of future fire. These codes were adopted in 2008 with the ability to adjust the ignition resistance of the structure in relation to the fire severity of the area.
Review & Revision
Review and revision of the CWPP began in 2013. Jackson Hole Fire/EMS began WUI assessments along Fall Creek Road and in the Pacific Creek Subdivision, north of Jackson. In the course of this work, 188 WUI assessments with 59 homeowner contacts were made and pre-incident planning occurred on 13 subdivisions. The CWPP was revised and updated June 2014, thanks to the hard work from many stakeholders. The TAWPC group determined a uniform message was critical for public education. The NFPA Firewise program and Ready-Set-Go were determined to be effective and easy to access messages.
For More information on the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition, click: https://westernwyfac.org/
Learning from Colorado
As Wyoming watched neighbor Colorado suffer three summers of intense wildland fires, much was learned from their losses. Several videos have been produced illuminating the firefighter safety concerns, increased costs associated with fighting fire in areas that have structures, and the need for homeowners to help protect their homes.
Waldo Canyon (PDF) is a video illustrating the susceptibility of structures becoming fuel loads spreading fire. The Denver Post video speaks to the crown fire and rapid fire spread through the Black Forest and its structures and another on the Black Forest Fire can be watched at Black Forest video.
- I found out my property is within the WUI, what do I do next? Follow the steps on the Contractor page.
- Do all structures in the WUI need a review? No. There is some work exempt from permitting. One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet and the structure is located more than 50 feet from the nearest adjacent structure. Similarly, additions or alterations of not more than 500 square feet to existing structures shall not be required to conform to that required for a new building or structure.
- How do I determine how much defensible space I can provide? Defensible space is measured from the closest perimeter or projection of your structure to the lot lines or property boundary. The minimum amount of defensible space permitted by the IWUIC is 30 feet. Essentially, this means you must have a minimum of a 30’ setback from all lot lines.
- What kind of trees may I plant in the WUI? Deciduous trees are the best choice for the WUI. Coniferous trees carry a heavy fuel load that only grows as the tree does. All trees must be planted with anticipation of their growth and crowns must be a minimum of 10’ apart.
- What is your recommended roofing material? Long lasting, weatherproof material that resists fire. Fire-treated wood Shake roofs do not retain their fire resistance long in this climate due to UV light, snow loads, and other environmental conditions. Effective March 1st, 2021 Wood shakes and shingles are no longer allowable in the mapped Wildland Urban Interface. Resolution language can be found at http://www.tetoncountywy.gov/civicalerts.aspx?aid=1351
- How do I determine if the material I want to use meets the ignition resistant requirements? Once the Fire Department has determined which IR level your structure requires, the Building Department takes over and makes certain it is met. Any questions about materials or “fire rated assemblies” should be directed to the appropriate building official. A good reference is the California State Fire Marshal’s page https://osfm.fire.ca.gov/divisions/fire-engineering-and-investigations/building-materials-listing/bml-search-building-materials-listing/ which has an abundance information. In general, if CA, the most restrictive state will allow a material, Teton County probably will as well.
- Under what conditions may I have a cold roof? A cold roof is a roof assembly constructed with a ventilated cavity above the insulated roof to equalize exterior and interior temperatures through the process of air movement. Cold roofs constructed above structural framing and insulation have horizontal ventilation located in soffits, in eave overhangs, between rafters at eaves, or in other overhang areas. Ventilation shall be allowed when the structural sheathing is protected by noncombustible materials used for one-hour fire-resistive construction. Such ventilation shall be covered with noncombustible, corrosion-resistant mesh with openings not to exceed ¼ inch (6.4 mm). Alternately, fire/ember resistant vent guards that comply with the requirements of the California State Fire Marshal will be allowable.