Wildfires have become as much a part of Colorado summers as the blossoming of columbines along the Front Range, and 2017 is no different.
“We’re on par for another busy year,” said Eric Hurst, public information officer for South Metro Fire …
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West Metro Assistant Fire Chief Jay Jackson said homeowners can call their local fire department to schedule a property fire safety assessment.
Here are some more tips to prevent wildfire damage to your home and help you prepare for wildfire emergencies:
• Keep your home’s roof, rain gutters and deck clean and green. Water plants and lawns to keep them from drying out.
• Make a safety zone of 100 feet around your home by clearing dry leaves, pine needles, branches and other potentially flammable plant debris.
• Put anything that can burn, such as woodpiles and propane tanks at least 100 feet away from your home.
• Choose patio furniture and other outdoor items with fire safety in mind.
• Make sure your house number can be easily seen from the road.
• “Limb up” trees by trimming low-hanging branches that can spread fire from the ground.
• Break up areas of contiguous fuel. For example, spread rocks along privacy fences, rather than grass or bushes that could spread fire from a yard to the fence.
Preparing for emergencies
• Make an evacuation plan. Find two evacuation routes from your home and from your community, and know how you will use them. Practice using both in case one is blocked by smoke or fire.
• Practice the plan with everyone in your family. If you have a pet, include a leash or carrier in practices.
• Have a communications plan for family members in case you aren’t together during an evacuation.
• Make an emergency kit with essential personal items that will be ready to grab and go. Include pet supplies.
• Know ahead of time how to receive emergency information from officials in your community. In a wildfire, follow their evacuation instructions.
Sources: U.S. Fire Administration, West Metro Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Jay Jackson
“We’re on par for another busy year,” said Eric Hurst, public information officer for South Metro Fire Rescue. “The numbers are definitely up.”
Area residents paying attention to recent wildfires on the Front Range — like the Peak 2 fire in Breckenridge or last year’s Chatridge fire in Highlands Ranch — know that wildfires can hit close to home with little warning.
“A lot of people think they don’t have an issue because they don’t live up in the mountains, but that’s not the case,” said Jay Jackson, assistant chief of West Metro Fire Rescue and head of its Wildland Fire Division. “We have a lot of open fields, greenways, open spaces. All of those things are as likely to be impacted by fire as a forest is.”
Jackson said West Metro recently dispatched firefighters and engines to the Peekaboo fire — about 50 miles west of Craig — as well as other areas of Colorado and Arizona. Hurst said South Metro has dispatched firefighters 10 times this year to help control wildfires, six times in the metro area and four times to battle blazes in other areas of Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.
Though wildfires tend to occur in the fall, as humidity decreases and vegetation dries up, Hurst stressed that wildfires can ignite whenever dry conditions combine with a heat source, even seemingly harmless ones. A recent Cherry Hills fire started when a man was mowing his lawn to eliminate dry grass, and heat from the riding lawn mower ignited the yard.
“It’s not always malicious behavior or even careless behavior,” Hurst said. “Anything that causes heat, sparks or a flame can cause a fire. If someone is engaging in any of those activities, we ask them not only to be cautious, but to have water or another fire-suppression device on hand.”
Jackson agreed with Hurst, adding that firefighters and online resources can help homeowners living in the urban/wildland interface assess their property’s level of safety, but it’s ultimately up to them to take responsibility and make sure their home is as safe from fire as possible.
“When a fire comes pushing down on a house, it’s not the time to turn the sprinklers on,” he said.
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