For the last 12 years, Southwest Colorado has celebrated Fire Prevention and Education Month every April or May, and this year is no exception.
With the number, size and destructiveness of wildfires continuing to increase annually, others sensed the need to increase awareness, as well. The National Fire Protection Association designated May 3 as Community Wildfire Preparedness Day and, in partnership with State Farm Insurance, offered a small grant to 20 communities across the United States to assist with a special project on that day. FireWise of Southwest Colorado is honored to have had its project selected.
FireWise has planned a fuels-reduction project that will take place on some city of Durango open space just south of Rio Vista Park. In partnership with the city, La Plata County, Fire Smart, the Wildfire Mitigation Professionals Association, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and others, we will demonstrate how to reduce hazardous fuels.
City arborist Ron Stoner will be on hand to help identify native and non-native species. Mitigation contractors will demonstrate how to limb a tree, pile slash for efficient chipping and how to safely use a chipper.
In addition to learning about fuels reduction, residents also will have a chance to visit with Colorado State Forest Service, FireWise and La Plata County representatives and learn about actions they can take to reduce wildfire risk, improve forest health and identify beetles.
At 10 a.m., there will be a “Walk and Talk” weed identification and eradication session with Rod Cook, La Plata County weed manager.
Volunteers are welcome. Whether you have one hour or three hours, put on a long-sleeved shirt, grab a pair of work gloves and come join us. We’ll supply tools, and refreshments will be provided.
If you can’t join us, take a few moments and look around your home, property and neighborhood and see what actions you can take to become more prepared for a wildfire. There are endless tasks that just take a little time and elbow grease.
Here are a few suggestions:
Research shows that most homes burn when embers ignite flammable materials near the home, so rake mulch, pine needles and dried leaves at least five feet away from the home.
Talk to your neighbors and develop an emergency contact list, making sure to identify neighbors who might need extra help during an evacuation.
Prepare a “Go Bag” or 48-Hour Kit in case you are evacuated.
Make an evacuation plan with your family – figure out what you would want to take, where you would meet and what to do with your pets or livestock.
Move your stash of firewood at least 30 feet away (and uphill) from your home for the summer.
Chip your slash piles (and be sure to watch for information about the FireWise Chipper Rental Rebate Program that will begin May 1).
Additional personal and community project ideas can be found at www.WildfirePrepDay.org.
Thanks for doing your part to make our community more wildfire prepared.
Pam Wilson is the executive director for FireWise of Southwest Colorado. She can be reached at 385-8909 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The San Juan Mountains Association serves as the fiscal agent for FireWise.