Colo. Homeowner Outraged After Trees Cut Down

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. --

Patrick Sweeney moved to the foothills to get away from the city life. He loved the trees that surrounded his home and kept the noise out from the nearby road.

That is until he came home from vacation to find about 80 of his trees had been chopped down.

"I am frustrated as hell," Sweeney told 7NEWS. "Basically my place was violated. I left thinking I had a secure property, and I come back and (find that) someone walked on my land willy nilly and damaged it, vandalized it."

The fire-prevention volunteers who cut his trees, which were located on the Jefferson County easement, don't see it that way.

"What we are trying to do is to make sure the egress is safe both for the people leaving the community and for the volunteers and emergency personnel coming into the neighborhood to help us," said Ginny Riley, a volunteer heading up the mitigation work.

Riley said the volunteers are only working on the land 15 feet from the roadway up a homeowner's property. She said they are not wiping out every tree and shrub, but just trying to remove all of the scrub oak in that area as well as thinning the trees.

Riley said the work is being done based on recommendations from the Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

"The recommended thing was to increase defensible space around the houses, increase easement mitigation and to create fuel breaks within the neighborhood," said Riley.

The work has been done with the help from grant money and thousands of volunteers.

Riley and Donna Cox, another volunteer, said their group is only clearing debris, brush and trees from the county easement, which they said is 50 feet in each direction from the center of the roadway.

"The biggest risk is scrub oak," said Riley.

Riley and Cox sent letters to homeowners the week before the work was done informing people of their plan and allowing homeowners the opportunity to refuse the work.

Sweeney was out of town and never got the letter -- until he returned and after the work was done.

Riley and Cox admit they should have sent the letters earlier and now said they will call homeowners and speak to them prior to any work being done.

"In the future they say they are going to contact people," said Sweeney. "That is fine. That is the future. It doesn't help anything they have done to me or my property. There is nothing you can do to make the trees grow back."

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