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Fire Mitigation

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The GRAVEST DANGER facing Crestone Mountain Zen Center is forest fire. - Baker Roshi

2019 Decker Fire

In Colorado, the threat of forest fires is palpable in the summer months. It is common for the mountains to be cloaked in smoke from fires across the desert southwest. Climate change is making the problem even worse. Of the 20 largest forest fires in Colorado recorded history, 11 have occurred in the past five years. The path of destruction from fires can be enormous. In 2019, the Decker Fire north of Crestone burned almost 9,000 acres, shown in the adjacent photo.
While the Decker Fire may appear large in this photo, it was actually quite small by Colorado standards. In 2020, Colorado had three fires that were all 15 – 20x larger. For reference, the entire Sangre de Cristo Range shown in this image, from Poncha Springs to the Great Sand Dunes, would have been completely destroyed by either of the two largest Colorado fires in 2020.

2020/2021 Fire Season

Fires in Colorado can cover vast areas of wilderness, and they can be driven by fierce 100 mph winds. In 2021 the Marshall Fire in Boulder Colorado burned over 1000 homes in a matter of minutes.
Also in 2020, a lightning bolt struck the ground on a dry summer day just south of Crestone. We were lucky that day. The fire spread just up to the trees against the mountains. In an otherwise very busy fire season in Colorado, there happened to be a lull in activity which allowed wildland fire teams to divert tankers and other resources to stop the fire in the lowlands, just before it could engulf the forest.


Our two main goals for fire mitigation are to prevent the campus from being engulfed as the front of the fire reaches the campus, and to provide an extremely safe shelter-in-place structure for people, and our most rare and precious artifacts. We will accomplish these goals in three phases, the first of which needs to be completed by the beginning of the fire season in late Spring 2024.

Phase I: Dedicated Water Supply

Our vision is to shower 20,000 gallons of water over the main campus in 20 minutes as the fire front is approaching. By doing this we will create enough moisture to divert the majority of the fire around the campus, rather than through it.
We will create a pond with a minimum of 20,000 gallons at our inlet in Spanish Creek to serve as a water reservoir. We will connect this to a fire hydrant in the center of campus with 1500' of high-flow 6" water line. Phase I will provide a dedicated water supply to fight fire.
We began the process of creating the pond earlier this year as part of a redesign of our domestic water supply system.

Cost Estimate: $25,000

Phase II: Campus Sprinkler System

After installation of a water supply capable of delivering 1000 gallons per minute for at least 20 minutes in Phase I, we will create a campus sprinkler system surrounding each of the buildings on the main campus.
We will install 2” water lines from the main hydrant terminal created in Phase I to each of the main campus buildings. These lines will connect to new high-flow sprinkler heads surrounding each building as shown in the adjacent photo. This will allow us to deliver large amounts of water to each building and its immediate surroundings.
This will be most effective if it is done in the minutes before the fire reaches campus, which means some people will need to remain on campus as the fire approaches.

Cost Estimate: $25,000

Phase III: Dedicated Shelter-in-place Structure

If possible, we will evacuate all guests and residents who are not willing or able to fight the fire as it is approaching. For those who are unable to evacuate, we will need a safe shelter which can withstand several minutes or hours of intense wildfire. This shelter will also be used for storing our most valuable and vulnerable art.  We will use Insulated Concrete Forms on a concrete slab, a metal roof with no eaves and Durock sub-roofing, fire-rated doors, and glass bricks for natural light.
Good construction techniques can withstand the most severe fires, even those that destroyed the Marshall subdivision in Boulder. A structure intentionally designed and built to withstand a fire will allow some people to stay behind to ensure the survival of Crestone Mountain Zen Center.

Cost Estimate: $50,000

Thank you for ensuring the survival of Crestone Mountain Zen Center!

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