Good morning, and happy Monday!

We’re extra excited and grateful today, because we’ve just celebrated our six-month anniversary, and in honor of that, we’re launching our first membership campaign today. That means over the next four weeks we get to tell you our story and goals in a way we never have before.

We’ll keep that separate from the news, though. So look out for a separate email this afternoon launching our summer campaign! 👀 And thank you for investing in the future of local journalism for our community. 

Happy reading — don’t miss Tim Drugan’s latest in his series on Boulder-local climate and wildfire issues.👇 He breaks down, with the help of Wildfire Partners, how and why to protect your property (and neighborhood) from wildfires. Removing home-hugging mulch is just the beginning.

Stacy, publisher 

Boulderites enjoy a sunny afternoon at Central Park on Saturday, June 4. Credit: Jezy J. Gray

Quickly

Slightly cooler (with a t-storm?): Expect highs in the mid-to-high 70s today with the possibility of a passing afternoon thunderstorm.

🏳️‍🌈 LGBTQ data collection: Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law last week that allows the Colorado Department of Health to collect data on sexual orientation, gender identity and disability from people who seek medical services. The information would be voluntarily provided. Supporters of the legislation include Out Boulder County, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.

More context: In June 2021, the nonprofit published a survey of nearly 300 people that found higher rates of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, demand for mental health services, and suicide attempts among LGBTQ respondents during the pandemic. Rep. Karen McCormick of Longmont, who sponsored the legislation, said the data is intended to inform health equity decisions and address healthcare disparities. The state health department is expected to begin requesting the voluntary information in the next year, she said.

🌱 Plant swap stopped: A plant swap scheduled for last Saturday at the Meadows Branch Library in South Boulder was canceled after the Colorado Department of Agriculture notified the city it had to obtain a nursery license to host the event. The city did not have enough time to get the license nor enough staff to follow the record-keeping regulations set under the Colorado Nursery Act, according to Jess Rainy, a programs, events and outreach specialist with the city’s Department of Library and Arts. “Therefore, in order to properly follow the Nursery Act’s restrictions we chose to cancel the swap. We will have many other Seed to Table events this summer and fall, and other city departments will be hosting plant swaps this year,” Rainy wrote in an email to the Boulder Reporting Lab on Friday.

💰 Small business relief: The City of Boulder is offering up to $500,000 in one-time grants for local small businesses that continue to feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, supported by a portion of its Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The application period runs through June 20.

📅 Juneteenth events: Mark your calendars for June 16–20, when NAACP Boulder County and the Executive Committee, African American Cultural Events, Boulder County present a four-day slate of Juneteenth happenings — from an outdoor community celebration with Rep. Joe Neguse to a youth art development workshop and showcase. Full schedule and workshop registration here.

🚌 Transportation funding: Public input is encouraged during a virtual meeting hosted by Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting and Public Works departments on Tuesday, June 14, 5:30–7 p.m. Per the county: “The open house will focus on the future of the county’s transportation sales tax which expires in June 2024, and options will be presented for future funding of multimodal transportation system needs throughout Boulder County.” Register here.

🌎 Climate help wanted: The city is hiring a sustainability senior program manager to join its natural climate solutions team. The position will “provide support and coordination for all aspects of the design and implementation of the city’s natural climate solutions (NCS) efforts associated with Boulder’s climate action plan.” More info here.

💻 Business center access for fire survivors: The Superior Chamber Business Center welcomes Marshall Fire survivors and affected businesses to “use office equipment, hold meetings, use the workspace, and access recovery guidance and assistance from volunteers” through Sunday, July 31. Facilities are located inside he Superior Marketplace, 300 Center Drive. Contact chamber staff or Superior Rising volunteers at 303-554-0789 or via email.

Top Story

A personal trainer for fire mitigation: Wildfire Partners helps homeowners address unique challenges to protect themselves and their neighbors before the next blaze strikes

When someone mentions a home lost to wildfire, you might imagine flames stalking through the forest like a puma before leaping to engulf the structure. But in reality, houses often catch fire due to a “blizzard of embers” raining down from above, carried on a wind determined to spread chaos.

“You can get thousands of embers landing on your house,” said Jim Webster, coordinator of the Wildfire Partners program, a public-private fire mitigation partnership led by Boulder County. “A lot land on the roof, but with the wind, [the embers] can also be pelting the side of your house. Then they fall down to the base of the wall.”

And if the area immediately around your house is mulch or some other combustible material, those embers — sometimes blown from more than a mile away — will land in the fuel, catch fire, and subsequently ignite your home. 

Should one wish to reduce their home’s ignition risk, removing home-hugging mulch would be just the beginning of a fire mitigation plan developed by the Wildfire Partners program. Designed in 2013 and launched in 2014 with Jim Webster at its helm, Wildfire Partners helps Boulder County homeowners protect their property from wildfire, even while living in areas adapted to burn.

“Fire is a natural party of our ecosystems; we’re going to continue to have fires,” Webster said. “Our program is an adaptation program so people can learn to live with fire.” 

In 1989, the Black Tiger Fire burned the foothills northwest of Boulder. At that point, it was the most devastating wildland-urban interface fire in the history of Colorado. Wildland-urban interface, often abbreviated to WUI, stands for areas where human development abuts nature. When fire works its way into the WUI, especially when the wildland involved is predisposed to torch, homes are often lost. The Black Tiger Fire burned 44 homes within six hours.

“The Black Tiger Fire triggered lots of actions,” Webster said. “It started our mitigation efforts.”

BRL Picks

🎭 From the page to the stage: Are you a parent who wants to try your hand at playwriting? Butterfly Effect Theater of Colorado is seeking full-length plays written by a parent with at least one child under the age of 18. The organization will select one winner to receive a week-long workshop residency with daily rehearsals, ending in a staged reading of the script — along with $1,000 in prize money, plus a $500 childcare stipend. Deadline for submissions is June 15. More details here.

🐝 Bee an advocate: City of Boulder and participating partners have launched a new four-part training series for “pollinator advocates” to learn how to introduce pollinator ecosystems into home gardens, as part of the city’s Cool Boulder climate initiative. Learn more and apply here.

💵 IPD grants available: Got an idea for an art-forward event to honor Indigenous Peoples Day? The City of Boulder Office of Arts + Culture is offering $2,000 enhancement sponsorships, on top of the $2,000 offered by the city’s Human Relations Commission, for proposals with arts components. Apply here.

🏓 Sports Stable open house: Families affected by the Marshall Fire are invited to an open house at the Sports Stable (1 Superior Dr.) this Saturday, June 11, to enjoy ice skating, yard games, pickleball, refreshments and more from 4–6 p.m. Email for more info.

Covid-19 Updates: June 6, 2022

  • 231 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 77% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 14 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬆️About the same as last week.
  • 44% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 70% since July 2020.
  • Note: This data is from our previous update, published June 3.

What We’re Reading

📖 Forest Service sparked Colorado wildfire, investigation reveals: “A prescribed fire set by the U.S. Forest Service to clear brush and other vegetation sparked a May wildfire that destroyed a home in southwestern Colorado, a preliminary investigation by the federal agency shows. The Forest Service started the planned burning on May 16 on agency-managed land near Montrose. … [T]he agency said that high winds likely nourished flames from the prescribed fire and pushed them beyond containment lines. The resulting Simms wildfire spread rapidly through dry brush, grass and forested areas and burned about half a square mile of federal and private land.” [CPR News]

ICYMI from BRL

🏘️ City of Boulder seeks to redevelop a mobile home park without pricing out its residents. As builders break ground, some remain skeptical. The city is investing millions in the Ponderosa neighborhood in North Boulder to help existing residents afford replacement homes. The financing model, never before tested in Boulder, could be expanded across the city to address the housing crisis.

🩰 After two of its teenage dancers were displaced by the Marshall Fire, a Louisville dance company closes a tumultuous season with one last performance at the Dairy Arts Center. Danse Etoile Ballet presented ‘In a Dialogue with Gravity’ and ‘Matisse’s Gardens’ last weekend at the Gordon Gamm Theater.

💵 How close is Boulder to providing a guaranteed income program? A pilot project being developed by the Boulder Health and Human Services Department would give several hundred low-income residents cash with no preconditions for up to two years, using $3 million in Covid-19 relief funds.

Our summer membership drive starts today!

Will you join us? BRL is celebrating its six-month anniversary. In honor of that, we’ve launched our first membership campaign, with a goal of getting 100 new members by July 4. Any amount qualifies you as a BRL member. And every penny you donate goes directly into growing our nonprofit local news coverage of the issues that matter most. We’re so proud of what we’ve contributed already to create a more informed and connected Boulder. But there’s so much more to be done for the community. If you value our reporting and want to see more, please join hundreds of BRL supporters who have already donated. Become a member today! Donations are tax-deductible.

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

Stacy Feldman

I'm the founder and publisher of the Boulder Reporting Lab. I previously co-founded and was executive editor of Inside Climate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit newsroom covering the climate emergency. I was a 2020-21 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I developed the concept for BRL.