Empowering Wildfire Resilience: FACO Opportunity Funds’ Impact in 2023

 In Community Protection, Events, FACO Network, Impact Stories, Neighborhood Ambassador, News, Opportunity Fund, Partnerships & Community Engagement, Prevention, Resident Mitigation, Slash Management, Success Stories

The Fire Adapted Colorado Wildfire Resilience Opportunity Fund played a crucial role in supporting participants within the FACO network again in 2023. With the support of BLM Colorado, Colorado State Forest Service, and the Argosy Foundation, microgrants were offered to spur member projects, fill critical funding gaps, and accomplish projects that benefit beyond a specific landscape.  

FACO’s Opportunity Fund supported 14 network participant projects in 2023, including three community events; chainsaw training for volunteers and advanced felling for youth conservation corps leads and related projects; another youth conservation corps project installing gravel around homes; three slash collection sites; a property assessment and resident mitigation training project; and a project supporting prescription and implementation planning. Five of these projects support Neighborhood Ambassador programs. Over $36,000 in project funding was awarded, a record amount for FY 2023! 


image of a bar graph for the FACO Opportunity Fund years 2018-2023


Awarded Projects:

These microgrants were designed to address specific needs within the FACO network, focusing on initiatives that align with the organization’s mission and playing a vital role in empowering wildfire resilience leaders throughout Colorado. Recipients of the grants were able to implement innovative strategies, community outreach programs, and educational initiatives aimed at building awareness and preparedness. By supporting these leaders, FACO contributed to developing a robust network of individuals dedicated to mitigating the impact of wildfires. 


Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (ARWC): In 2023, ARWC was able to leverage FACO funding to engage an intern in learning and supporting mitigation projects in three communities in southern Teller County associated with a Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation project. These projects are continuing in 2024. ARWC was also granted an award for the development of a Neighborhood Ambassador Program and is among four Opportunity Fund awardees planning to send new volunteer Neighborhood Ambassador recruits to FACO’s statewide virtual orientation that launches in February.

Boulder Watershed Collective (BTW): The Teens Inc. Youth Corps was utilized to install rock in the Zone 1 area around 10 homes in Gold Hill, CO. Maya MacHamer reported that “BWC has been working with residents and agencies within the town of Gold Hill for four years. This project contributes to continued partnership, capacity building, and long-term planning. The primary local partnership is with the Gold Hill Fire Protection District, Town Council, residents, and Teens Inc. The larger strategy of this project is to use it as a demonstration project for how other, larger communities can build internal capacity, develop and implement wildfire resilience activities, and use collective action to create labor and cost efficiencies to accomplish more on-the-ground work.” 

Clear Creek Fire Authority (CCFA): This project included 100 home evaluations and 20 revisits, which included evaluating all road access, driveway access, and risk assessments for homes within the York Gulch community. The department’s four-person mitigation crew was utilized for homeowner chipper operation training, hazard tree removal, and slash removal from critical properties. A chipper loan program was implemented, and evacuation, campfire, and helicopter landing site signs were installed on the designated routes and locations. 

Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW): Funds were utilized to participate as a core team member on a CWPP revision, as well as take part in a slash pile building workshop led by The Ember Alliance (TEA) that reached more than a dozen landowners in the area. The Opportunity Fund also allowed CPRW to develop prescriptions and implementation plans for three projects, including the Hidden Park mitigation project in Crystal Lakes, the Frazier property project in Glacier View Meadows, and the Windy Gap project located adjacent to the USFS Magic Feather Collaborative Prescribed Burn project near Red Feather Lakes. 

Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP): Funding supported advanced chainsaw training for Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) crew leads, including forester oversight, check ins, and support. This collaboration allowed CUSP to better understand the strengths and limitations of Youth Corp crews. After this collaboration, CUSP vocalized an increased familiarity with MHYC field leads, managing staff, and policies and indicated that they will seek a project for continued partnership and education. 

Dolores Watershed Resilient Forest Collaborative (DWRF) and Wildfire Adapted Partnership (WAP): Funds were used to support a collaborative wildfire mitigation workshop in the Summit Lake area of Montezuma County on April 22, Earth Day! The workshop topics included Defensible Space, a hands-on Chainsaw 101, Slash management and burn piles, Stacking for chipping, and Funding & Cost share opportunities. The collaborative effort included WAP, DWRF, Montezuma County, CSFS and CSU Extension, the USFS, DFPC, FACO, Mancos Conservation District, and Dolores Fire & Rescue. A total of 35 community members attended the event held at the Summit Lake Community Church in Mancos, CO. 

Genesee Fire Rescue (GFR): In 2022, Genesee FR held their first chipping event near one high risk neighborhood. In 2023, they leveraged an Opportunity Fund award to support slash hauling  for  two slash drop-off sites in neighborhoods with volunteer Neighborhood Ambassadors encouraging neighbors to remove hazardous fuels and bring them to the drop-off sites. Over two project days, 108 loads of slash were collected, and the contractor removed three loads of chipped material. Residents reported over 610 hours of volunteer labor in these neighborhoods.

Glacier View Fire Protection District (GVFPD): Project funds three Ipads with Safety Culture software and a customized Larimer County Wildfire Prepared home assessment program for new Neighborhood Ambassadors to conduct residential wildfire risk assessments. Glacier View has completed training including sending several Ambassadors to an Assessing Structure Ignition Potential training and all ambassadors participating in classroom training and hands-on mentoring with the Larimer County Wildfire Mitigation Specialist. They are making their Neighborhood Ambassadors official Fire District volunteers, and plan to conduct site visits with 6-12 trained volunteers in 2024.

Grand County Wildfire Council (GWC): Funds were used to support a neighborhood networking event focused on wildfire mitigation through the development of a Neighborhood Ambassador Approach. 

Platte Canyon Fire Protection District (PCFPD): In collaboration with Fire Adapted Bailey (FAB), an essential chainsaw operation, safety, and maintenance workshop was held for interested community members. Fire Adapted Bailey continues to proactively reduce wildfire risk through many efforts. Some of these efforts include completing on-the ground mitigation work with volunteers through events such as Saws and Slaws, chipping, or mitigation along evacuation routes. FAB works closely alongside PCFPD to seek guidance with these events, and one of the most significant barriers voiced to PCFPD is the need for more safe, competent volunteer sawyers. 

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV): Opportunity Funds supported the planning and implementation of three volunteer chainsaw projects this year (Basalt, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs). An estimated 3 acres were treated in total. It also encompassed the development of a volunteer chainsaw program at RFOV, including chainsaw operations training. As early wildfire mitigation projects for RFOV, they were surprised by the volume of slash to move and remove.

Roaring Fork Valley Wildfire Collaborative (RFVWC): Funding was allocated for the development of a Neighborhood Ambassador Program. The RFVWC Coordinator, Aspen Fire, and Eagle County are working closely together on program development and recruitment in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Routt County Wildfire Council: Funding was allocated in 2023 for contract support and materials to build their local Neighborhood Ambassador Program. The Council has been engaged in development of the statewide orientation and will track progress with new ambassadors in 2024.


The Fire Adapted Colorado Opportunity Fund microgrants played a vital role in empowering these wildfire resilience leaders throughout Colorado. Recipients of the grants were able to implement innovative strategies, community outreach programs, and educational initiatives aimed at building awareness and preparedness. By supporting these leaders, FACO contributed to developing a robust network of individuals dedicated to mitigating the impact of wildfires. By addressing specific needs within communities and landscapes, these microgrants played a pivotal role in fostering a more resilient Colorado in the face of increasing wildfire threats. They also served to reinforce grant writing and project management skills, as well as reinforcing other wildfire mitigation best practices. 

Network participants can hear more on some of the FACO Opportunity Fund projects on the November 2023 Network call (recording) including hearing from: 

  • Clear Creek Fire Authority’s Jeremy Jones speaking about the success of their chipper program and how they plan to double down in 2024. 
  • Melissa Daniels with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers who talked about their recent volunteer chainsaw projects and how they integrated safety and insurance considerations into the program. RFOV also has a “pretty hefty” organizational risk mitigation plan and built out a second risk mitigation plan just for the chainsaw program, along with a $1,000,000 liability policy, and
  • Shelby Edwards who reported on Platte Canyon FPD’s project to increase capacity with chainsaw training for resident volunteers in the Fire Adapted Bailey program.

FACO has been providing Opportunity Fund awards to our network participants since 2018. Read more about how FACO’s Opportunity Fund Creates a Big Impact with a Little Money and get a little history on our first awards.