Good morning, Boulder — and happy Friday! 🎉

We’ve got a couple top stories for you today. The first looks at a new non-police alternative pilot program for 911 calls being developed by city officials. The second offers a guided tour of a local Wildfire Partners certified home, exploring what goes into maintaining a fire-resilient property.

What else? A chance to chill with goats at Meadows Branch Library, for one thing. Plus the latest on last night’s wildfire west of Wonderland Lake, an update on Accessory Dwelling Units in the Marshall Fire burn area, your last chance to register for Narcan training with Boulder County Public Health, and more.

See you back here bright and early on Monday. We’re publishing a collaboration with KUNC and NPR that you won’t want to miss.

– Jezy, managing editor

Heart Lake in the James Peak Wilderness on Saturday, June 11. Credit: John Herrick

Quickly

🌤️ Heat advisory in effect: Highs are expected to hit the 95-degree mark today. A heat advisory will be in effect from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. We should be in store for a slight cool-down over the weekend, when highs will hover in the mid-80s.

🔥 Wonderland Lake Fire: Last night, Boulder Fire-Rescue responded to a small wildfire on the paragliding hill west of Wonderland Lake in North Boulder. At 12:35 a.m., it reported complete containment: “Crews will remain on scene to work on hot spots within the interior of this fire. You may see Boulder Fire-Rescue crews in the area.”

🚫 Fire restrictions in place: Unincorporated areas of western Boulder County are currently under Stage 1 fire restrictions due to high temperatures and low humidity. Click here for a complete list of affected locations and prohibited activities.

🏠 FYI on ADUs: Boulder County planners have proposed land use code changes aimed at making it easier for people to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on properties where their homes were destroyed in the Dec. 30 Marshall Fire. The proposed revisions waive certain permitting requirements for building an ADU up to 700 square feet and within 50 feet of the home that burned down. In the coming months, county planners said they plan to update rules for building ADUs across the county in order to encourage more affordable housing. The county is accepting comments on the proposed changes until June 26 and the Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to hold a hearing on Aug. 4.

🆕 Juneteenth flag-raising in Lyons: According to a tweet from Mayor Hollie Rogin, the Town of Lyons will join other municipalities across Boulder County in holding a public flag-raising event in honor of Juneteenth. The ceremony takes place today at 9 a.m. at the town hall flag pole triangle. Check out our guide to this weekend’s festivities for more on how to celebrate the holiday locally.

💻 Marshall Fire resources: The Town of Superior has launched two new websites for Marshall Fire survivors. Superior Recovers and Marshall Fire Community Planning and Rebuilding Effort are designed to help connect residents with recovery resources related to debris removal, sustainable building, personal wellbeing and more.

🗓️ Save the date: Fire-resistant exteriors will be the topic of conversation during a Colorado Green Building Guild webinar on Tuesday, June 21. Taking place from 6-7:30 p.m., the introduction to materials and best practices will be followed by a Q&A session with experts. 

💰 Covid cash, Round 2: The Boulder County Board of County Commissioners has approved $36.5 million in a second round of funding to support recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic for people who live and work in Boulder County. “Projects funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds will address economic challenges, housing affordability, and mental health and social resilience,” according to a county press release

🍅 Food tax rebate program: Residents have until Thursday, June 30, to submit applications for Boulder’s annual Food Tax Rebate Program. Rebates for 2022 are $92 for individuals and $280 for families. Eligibility guidelines here.

🎉 Eco-Cycle anniversary: Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Joe Neguse will be in attendance during Eco-Cycle’s anniversary celebration tonight from 5:30–7:30 p.m at the Boulder JCC. The event marks 45 years of Eco-Cycle, which runs the Boulder County Recycling Center and is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit recyclers in the U.S. 

➡️ Narcan training: There’s still time to register for two free trainings presented by Boulder County Public Health and the Healthy Futures Coalition on how to administer Narcan (Naloxone) to reverse an opioid overdose in an emergency situation. The first training on June 23 is for residents of all ages, while the following June 27 training is for people 25 and under. Register here.

🥾 Heil Ranch updates: The area reopened yesterday morning, following recovery and rebuilding efforts related to the 2020 Calwood Fire. The parking area at the main trailhead will close daily at noon, due to increased flash flooding risk.

🏊 Slide into summer: Boulder County Parks and Recreation is looking for help naming the waterslides at the city’s Scott Carpenter Pool. Submit your ideas here, and read up on summer hours at Boulder aquatic facilities, currently operating at “reduced or constrained” service levels, to plan your next trip.  

Top Stories

City of Boulder eyes new non-police alternative for 911 calls

By John Herrick

As soon as next year, the City of Boulder could launch a new alternative police response program that would send behavioral health clinicians, paramedics and case managers on 911 calls without the assistance of police officers, city officials said during a town hall on Thursday, June 16. 

Officials said the non-police responders would be dispatched on calls involving situations ranging from a mental health crisis to non-emergencies such as loitering. They would likely respond to about 3% of the calls that come into the department, Police Chief Maris Harold said. 

The potential pilot program comes as the city works to reform policing and grapple with recent police officer hiring challenges. Such alternative police response programs have gained popularity across the United States following national protests against police use of force and disproportionate killings of Black people. Advocates in Boulder have long called for such a program in order to prevent police from arresting people experiencing a mental health crisis or homelessness.

Wendy Schwartz, the city’s chief of staff, told Boulder Reporting Lab that the program aims to better respond to the broad array of 911 calls with a broader array of emergency response expertise. 

The program would not necessarily replace the city’s four-person co-responder program known as the Crisis Intervention Response Team, or CIRT, which pairs police officers with behavioral health clinicians on calls involving people experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.

What does a fire resilient property look like? One Boulder County resident’s home offers a glimpse.

By Tim Drugan

Howard Gordon descended from a deck over his driveway while I double-checked the emergency brake to ensure my car wouldn’t roll down the foothills and end up in Haldi Ditch beside Highway 36.

“You want a cold glass of water?” Gordon asked after I mentioned the smothering 97-degree heat. “Or a soda?”

Gordon’s home sits on one of the grassy slopes making up the first layer of the Rocky Mountains. When I visited, the landscape was a late-spring green that promised not to endure. For the time being though, it held reassurances for those with property in the area. 

“This green stuff is a great fire preventer because it won’t burn,” Gordon said, gesturing to the grass on his land. “But once it starts drying out, I’ll cut it down to the ground.”

Gordon’s property is Wildfire Partners certified. After previously talking to Jim Webster, coordinator for the Boulder County fire mitigation program, I drove to Gordon’s home to see what a certified property looked like for myself. 

Looking over the plains from Gordon’s driveway, Boulder fans out to the right with hints of Longmont far to the left. “On a clear day we can see DIA,” he said, pointing to the horizon.

From his vantage point, Gordon watched the Marshall Fire march across grasslands from its origin on the mesa into the suburbs of Superior. “We watched with our hearts in our stomachs,” Gordon said. “From the beginning and all through the night.”

Having lived on the property since July 4, 1993, the Marshall Fire wasn’t the first Gordon had seen. Four others were in his direct proximity: the Middle Fork Fire, Jamestown Fire, Olde Stage Fire and Lefthand Canyon Fire. The 2011 Lefthand Canyon Fire caused Gordon to evacuate as flames moseyed uncomfortably close to his property. 

“When you have to evacuate because of a fire, it’s a pretty scary thing,” Gordon said. “It means shit’s hit the fan.”

Because of the remoteness of Gordon’s property, firefighters defending his home can’t rely on city water if their trucks run dry. Instead, Gordon has almost 5,000 gallons of water in underground cisterns in addition to a hot tub whose water can be repurposed by firefighters should flames prove stubborn. “Our house is very defensible just from a water access standpoint,” Gordon said.

The main concern for homes like Gordon’s is a lightning strike on a ridge above the house. If fanned by westerly winds hurtling out of the mountains, sparks can quickly turn from flickers into flames. 

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BRL Picks

🐐 Meet and bleat: Want to meet some cute critters while learning about regenerative agriculture and humane animal husbandry? Grab the kids and head to Meadows Branch Library on Saturday, June 18, to get up close with the other kids from Growing Gardens’ Goat Dairy as part of Boulder Public Library’s Summer of Discovery program.

🎵 Sound of the summer: Does it get better than music outdoors on a summer night? The city’s Concerts in the Parks series returns with a slate of free performances from the historic Boulder Concert Band, whose roots go back to 1870. The program runs through August and kicks off at North Boulder Park on Monday, June 20, 7–8 p.m.

🗽Ellis Island stories: Celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month with a play based on Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island National Immigration Museum oral histories at 1915 Broadway on June 24 and 26. The 40-minute performance will be followed by a panel discussion: “Immigration: Now and Then.” No registration required. More here.

🎓 Caps off for Black grads: Boulder High Principal Dr. James Hill will keynote a celebration of this year’s Black high school graduates from Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts on Monday, June 20, as part of local Juneteenth celebrations. And don’t miss out on the other holiday festivities celebrating Black freedom across Boulder County this weekend.

Covid-19 Updates: June 17, 2022

  • 303 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 116% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 14 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬇️Down from a high of 26 last week.
  • 51% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 69% since July 2020.

What We’re Reading

📖 Boulder pop. shrinks; Longmont grows: “Longmont’s population has crossed the 100,000 threshold, with the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau placing the city’s population at 100,758 as of July 1, 2021. That places it within striking distance of supplanting Boulder as the most-populous community in Boulder County. The Census Bureau estimates Boulder’s population at 104,175, down from the official April 1, 2020, census count of 108,250.” [BizWest]

📖 Jeffco school district plans elementary school closures: “Jeffco district leaders say 49, or 58% of district elementary schools, currently have fewer than 250 students, and/or use less than 60% building capacity. Six elementary schools, in six different areas of the district, have fewer than 200 students, and also utilize less than 60% of their building’s capacity.” [Chalkbeat Colorado]

📖 The state of free RTD rides in August: “‘Is it true RTD will be free all of August this summer?’ asked Denverite reader Lynn. ‘If so will that include all bus and lightrail schedules? Our air needs this! Us too!’ Though summer is bearing down upon us and the skies are already smoggy, RTD still doesn’t have a firm answer to Lynn’s question — even though the bill passed and free transit is likely.” [Denverite]

ICYMI from BRL

🏳️‍🌈 Colorado becomes latest state to collect LGBTQ data to address health disparities. Out Boulder County helped make it happen. The new law will allow the state health department to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. It came after the nonprofit surveyed residents and found vaccine, mental health and other disparities.

🖤 What’s in store for the first official Juneteenth observance in Boulder County? From youth arts workshops to an outdoor celebration with Rep. Joe Neguse, here’s everything you need to know about honoring the holiday locally.

💧 Fire, flood and pollution: How Boulder Watershed Collective navigates a network of concerns in its mission to keep local water sources clean. With lessons learned from the Fourmile Canyon disasters, nonprofit stewardship organization founder Maya MacHamer takes ‘a landscape-level view of our watersheds.’

Will you get us to our July 4 goal? We’re so close!

Our summer membership drive is on. Thanks to your support, we’re already nearly at our goal of 100 new BRL members by July 4. Just a handful to go. As a nonprofit newsroom, reader support helps us grow into a permanent local news institution for Boulder, capable of covering every issue of community importance, every day. If you have the means to pay for the news, will you join us and become a BRL member today? Donations are tax-deductible, and any amount qualifies you as a member.

Thanks for reading!

Our journalism depends on you.
Have a story tip for us?
Send us your ideas at tips@boulderreportinglab.org.

– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.