By Wildfire Adapted Partnership staff
After the last few years left Southwest Colorado with exceptional drought conditions, winter 2019 brought welcome relief.
As the snow melts and the temperatures rise, however, it is important to think about wildfire risk once again because in our climate, it only takes a few weeks of warm, dry weather for this risk to return.
Last year was one of the most active wildfire seasons in recent history, with the effects felt deeply in Southwest Colorado with three large fires burning in the area (416, Burro and Plateau). Homeowner and community mitigation efforts helped stop the progression of the 416 Fire and allowed firefighters to safely enter communities to halt the flames’ progression.
Wildfire Adapted Partnership, formerly FireWise of Southwest Colorado, is a nonprofit that works in the five Southwest Colorado counties (Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan). WAP’s mission is to protect lives and property from wildfire, and it accomplishes this through many activities, including education and incentive programs to help homeowners learn to live safely with wildfire.
To prepare for 2019’s wildfire season, consider using Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on Saturday as an opportunity to schedule an activity at your home or in your neighborhood. Here are a few steps that all residents can take to ensure they are prepared:
Create defensible space around your home. Creating at least 5 feet of noncombustible space around your home can help protect your structures in the event of a wildfire. This includes clearing pine needles and other combustible items. Ultimately, every homeowner should consider extending their defensible space out 100 feet from their home. Store firewood at least 30 feet from any structure during wildfire season and prevent debris buildup in gutters, crawlspaces and under porches. WAP can help by providing a free site assessment, which will include recommended next steps. WAP even has funding available for defensible space cost sharing for eligible homeowners. Additionally, all residents are eligible to participate in WAP’s Chipper Rental Rebate program, where residents can receive a rebate for renting a chipper or hiring a contractor to process slash on their property or in their communities. Sign up for your county’s emergency alert system. (CodeRed in La Plata County and Nixle in Archuleta, Dolores, Montezuma and San Juan counties.) Early notification allows residents to evacuate safely in the event of a wildfire or other emergency situations.Develop an evacuation plan. Creating a checklist or emergency bag could help save time in the event of an evacuation. Include copies of your family’s important documents and any medications or toiletries necessary for an extended absence. It’s important to also include your pets in a plan. These steps can help you have a safe and calm evacuation while allowing emergency personnel to focus on the task at hand. Create a Wildfire Preparedness Committee for your HOA or community. A group of people can help share the workload for a community and also plan community projects and coordinate outreach to new residents. These tasks will help move toward building a fire-adapted community where residents are prepared to coexist with wildfire.Think about becoming a WAP Neighborhood Ambassador. Ambassadors act as spark plugs for their neighbors, helping with outreach and planning. WAP has 140 volunteer ambassadors representing almost 95 neighborhoods throughout Southwest Colorado.Even small tasks can help prepare homeowners in the event of a wildfire. It is important to keep this in mind even after a snowy winter. To find out more about WAP and Wildfire Community Preparedness Day activities, visit www.widlfireadapted.org or call the Durango office at 385-8909.