Our forests and fields are tinder-boxes, and I’m scared! I know that just one spark can start a high-intensity wildfire that threatens homes, people, clean water, power lines and our economy.
Unlike many other natural disasters, there is a lot we can all do to be prepared and more resilient to wildfires, but have we done enough collectively to stand strong in what could be a tough fire summer in the Southwest?
Some of our local fire departments have already run nearly as many wildland fire calls in 2018 as all of 2017, and our spring windy season lacks its usual muddy ground. Even with extreme diligence, many fires are likely to ignite and spread quickly this year. Besides preventing unwanted human-caused fires, everyone has a role to play in being prepared for wildfires.
Whether you live in town or in the country, burning embers from a forest or structure fire can travel over a mile. It’s bad news if these burning chunks land in dry grass, weeds, bark mulch, needles or leaves, cardboard, patio furniture or other fine fuels around your home. So take a few minutes to survey around your home or place of business for combustible materials and remove them!
Forty-two residents died in California, caught by wildfires in their homes, cars and backyards last October. This is heartbreaking and unacceptable.
It is up to each of us to be prepared and have a plan for evacuating early and finding the support we need for people and pets that cannot evacuate themselves before a wildfire threatens. Here are some tips:
Make an evacuation and reunification plan for your household or business. Have an emergency bag in your vehicle and your personal items ready to go.Back up important papers on the cloud or an external hard-drive, or have copies in a safety deposit box or with a friend or family member out of the area. Keep backup glasses and medications in your go kit. Have what you need for all the people and pets in your household.If you don’t have a plan and go bag, please visit ready.gov/Colorado. There are many agencies and people available to support your home and business preparedness, from thinning your trees to making a plan. You can find this support, including requesting a free site-visit or events to attend, at southwestcoloradofires.org.
The Living with Wildfire Resource Fair and Fundraiser is coming up Saturday in Mancos. On Wednesday, a wildfire movie night will be held at the theater in Pagosa Springs, and a ponderosa pine symposium will be held at the Dolores Public Lands Office. May 5 is National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day. A Mitigation Fair will be held at Forest Lakes subdivision off Florida Road, and an open house will be held at the Pleasant View Fire Station, and many neighborhoods are hosting community work days, informational checkpoints and evacuation drills.
Let every gust of wind be a reminder that you have the power to be prepared and modify fire behavior before a wildfire threatens your home or community. Don’t just worry: Take action today!
Rebecca Samulski is assistant director for FireWise of Southwest Colorado.