Happy Wednesday, Boulder. Thank you from our team for your support during our year-end campaign (and always). Your generosity makes our work, our growing newsroom, possible.

Today, I’ve got a feel-good story for you, one in the wildfire space no less — an area where feel-good stories should be cherished. This one continues a theme started by my previous reporting, that climate change is an equity issue. But while my last story covered Boulder’s efforts to combat climate-induced inequality, this one covers a mountain community and its push to make the area more fire resilient for everyone.

The community is Gold Hill. Through collaboration with nonprofits, volunteers and teenagers, fire mitigation took root as residents were not only told how to harden their properties against fires, but were helped with “going out and doing it.”

Also, if we’re going to become a zero-waste city, we’ve all got to step up our recycling/composting game. Thankfully, Boulder put out a guide to help us do just that. A surprising takeaway? Stop crushing your aluminum cans, it confuses the sorting machines. I know that’s going to break some hearts. My brother-in-law takes immense pride in his beer can-stomping ability. But it’s for the planet, Nick.

Have a lovely hump day.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Cool sun followed by warm clouds: Sun in the 30s today will reflect off new snow and make you wish you remembered your sunglasses. Tomorrow, temps in the 50s will start to melt the snow, but without help from the cloud-covered sun.
  • Lawmakers eye moving school board elections to even-years: Boulder’s two state representatives, Judy Amabile and Junie Joseph, are in the early stages of working on a bill that would move school board elections to even-year elections. The interest was spurred by the passage of 2E, a city ballot measure that will move city council elections to even years starting in 2026. (For more on this, read our last story.) The move is designed to boost voter turnout in local elections. Typically, more people vote when state and federal races are on the ballot. But some opponents of 2E are concerned that even fewer people will end up voting in school board races, which under state law, are held on odd-numbered years.
    • “Based on these concerns, I am open to running a bill on providing options to school districts to put to the voters on whether school board elections should be held in even years,” Joseph told BRL in a text message. “The legislation would not be mandatory.”
    • Joseph said she is in the early process of brainstorming. She said she wants school board leaders and other stakeholders to support the legislation.
  • After prom to return: Parents concerned about drunken or impaired driving post-prom are bringing back after prom. A joint venture between Boulder and Fairview High Schools, it offers a safe pastime after the dance. Last year, two people were tragically killed in a Boulder prom-related drunken-driving incident.
    • After Prom 2023 will be at the East Boulder Community Center on April 29 from 11:30 pm to 3:30 am.
    • Organizers estimate the event could cost upwards of $60,000, when accounting for rides home, food and all the games provided. For those who wish to donate, they can do so on the event’s website.
  • New emergency mapping: Boulder launched Zonehaven, a new web-based emergency mapping tool for the community. Through the service, Boulder residents will be able to see what first responders are recommending for their neighborhood, like in a fire, should you stay or should you go?
    • “After many months of hard work from members of multiple departments across the city, we are excited for the launch of this software,” said Wildland Division Chief Brian Oliver. “Zonehaven not only helps us as first responders execute evacuation notifications more quickly and effectively, it also gets critical emergency information into the hands of community members in a way we haven’t been able to achieve before.”
    • BRL spoke with the public information officers for Boulder Fire-Rescue and Police Department about Zonehaven and the future of emergency communication. We’ll be publishing that story soon.
  • Out Boulder County responds to Senate bill: The Respect for Marriage Act mandates federal recognition for same-sex marriages. It passed the Senate Tuesday, and is likely to pass the House and get signed into law by the president. Though “an important victory,” the bill “does not create a federal right to marry ensuring that all states must provide marriage licenses to couples,” Out Boulder County said in a media statement.
    • “While it is an important step to ensure that marriage equality remains the law of the land, it does not go far enough,” Mardi Moore, executive director of Out Boulder County, said in that statement. “The fight to protect marriage equality continues until there is a federal right to marriage that requires all states to not have discriminatory marriage laws.”
    • The bill comes after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in his opinion on the ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, suggested that the court revisit opinions protecting marriage equality.
  • Reported hostage call: On Monday night, Boulder PD got wind of a man and woman being held against their will in a house on Broadway. When police went to the house in question, the two people being held escaped out a window while the suspected captor was busy not complying with police and barricading himself in the home. One officer shot their gun but didn’t hit anyone.
    • Early Tuesday morning, after the suspect surrendered to officers, a bomb squad searched the house due to reported explosives onsite. They didn’t find bombs, but they did find swords and dogs that were taken to the Humane Society.
    • The investigation into the case is ongoing, and anyone with information about this incident should call Detective S. Byars at 303-441-1970 reference case 22-11797.
  • City releases waste sorting guide: As Boulder tries to become a zero-waste city, it’s important its residents know what goes in what bin. To this end, it has released a guide, with a fun video to go along with. The end goal is to have as little go to the landfill as possible, but have enough go to the landfill to keep recycling and composting facilities operating smoothly. Contamination mucks things up.
    • Some of the biggest problem items included in recycling bins? Plastic bags and plastic lined coffee cups. “Think plastic bags in the recycling isn’t a big deal?” the video asks. “Think again!” You also can’t recycle plastic utensils, plastic wrap or plastic gloves.
    • Some more tips for the busy:
      • Leave lids on plastic bottles when recycling them. 
      • Do NOT crush your aluminum cans, it confuses sorting machines. Feel free to ball up your aluminum foil though.
      • If it was alive during your lifetime, it can be composted “including meat, bones and dairy.” But take the plastic stickers off your produce first.
      • Unless your container says BPI certified compostable, throw it in the trash. Biodegradable or all natural labels mean nothing.
      • Any paper products with food contamination, like dirty napkins or pizza boxes, should be composted, but NOT your to go boxes. Those are probably lined with plastic.
      • Though your dog’s poop bags might be compostable, your dog’s poop isn’t. Throw that in the trash.

Go deeper

Boulder County’s Gold Hill is finding a new model to empower its mountain community to prepare for wildfires

By Tim Drugan

A group of Gold Hill residents call themselves the Gold Hill Mountain Stewards. Over the last year and a half, these stewards honored their name. In establishing gravel “non-combustible zones” around individual houses, clearing deadwood from private properties and lessening fuel loads on common lands, they modeled how a community can lower its collective fire risk through cooperative action.

“[Fire mitigation] is a community issue,” said Virginia Schultz, a resident of Gold Hill and a Stewards’ volunteer. “We all need to do it together. If something is done on an individual property, it helps the whole town.”

The Lefthand Fire of 2020 caused evacuations in Gold Hill. Realizing their community was at risk, the Mountain Stewards applied for a 2020 Fires Relief Fund grant from the Community Foundation Boulder County. Accepted through the Gold Hill Town Meeting, a nonprofit, the stewards were given almost $30,000.

The goal of the grant was “fuel reduction on low-income, elderly, and disabled properties,” because while Gold Hill is nestled in a fire-prone landscape, the expense of mitigation has limited such efforts.

According to Marcus Moench, another Stewards member and chair of the Gold Hill Town Meeting, a number of community members had gone through the county’s Wildfire Partners Program but hadn’t completed the recommended home-hardening. High cost prevented action.

“And them not [mitigating] raises the risk level for everybody,” Moench said.

Continue reading…

Through Dec. 31, the Colorado Media Project and NewsMatch will each match your new monthly donation to BRL 12X (a $15/month donation, for instance, is equal to $360!). They’re also each doubling your one-time donations, up to $1,000. This means your gift can fund quadruple as much vital journalism for Boulder County and help us continue to build a great local newsroom. Give today to quadruple your impact!

BRL picks

🎄 Donate to EFAA’s holiday drive: Through Dec. 9, the Emergency Family Assistance Association is accepting donations of “new, unwrapped toys and presents for kids and teens ages 0-18.” Some of their highest priority requests are arts and craft supplies, outdoor toys, dolls and Legos.

💃 Thursday night belly dancing: At the Tribe Nawaar Studio, you can find the answer to several pressing questions: “What has made our belly dance style such a wildly popular dance form? The power and presence of the moves? The lush and layered costuming? The sense of community created by a group of dancers working together to create an improvised art? All of the above?”

🚜 Soil Revolution conference: Farmers and ranchers “of all scales and production systems” are invited to hear from soil health experts and farmers who have converted to more sustainable techniques. Taking place on Dec. 6, the conference will be available in person and to stream. Registration, however, closes Dec. 1.

⛰️ Book release at Neptune Mountaineering – reminder: At the store on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., attend the release of IFMGA Mountain Guide Mike Soucy’s new book and guide, “Backcountry Skiing Rocky Mountain National Park.” For free.

Covid in Boulder County: Nov. 30, 2022

  • 105 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️ Up 19% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 23 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬆️ Up from a high of 19 last week.
  • 45% percent of ICU is occupied. ⬇️ Down from avg. of 64% since July 2020.
  • Here’s a graph of the recent bump in Covid cases among Boulder County residents, as noted above.

What else we’re reading

  • Deputies who killed Christian Glass, a 22-year-old from Boulder, were fired from the Clear Creek Sheriff’s Office after being indicted by a grand jury. The killing happened near Silver Plume, where Glass, who called the police for help after crashing into an embankment, was experiencing delusions and paranoia. “Glass committed no crime and acted in self-defense before the deputy shot him while he sat in his car,” the Denver Post reported.

ICYMI


Tim Drugan

Tim Drugan covers wildfires, water and other climate change-related issues for Boulder Reporting Lab with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism.