The recent spring rain may lull you into thinking there won’t be much of a fire season. And there may not be – this summer. But fast forward to next June and think about how much more fuel is on the ground because of this year’s rain.
Southwest Colorado didn’t experience much of a fire season the last two years, but the grasses, those fine fuels that can really carry a fire, were a good foot shorter.
You’ve all heard it’s not a matter of if a wildfire will happen, but when. This spring’s weather dictates a little different form of preparation than the last couple years.
This year, it will be imperative to mow tall grasses as they dry out, especially in the 30 feet immediately around your home and outbuildings. A fire moving through grass may reach your home in just a matter of minutes, well before your fire department can.
You may also be experiencing a new crop of weeds, as the rain provided nourishment for seeds that had been dormant. Large infestations of weeds may show up in recently mitigated areas, especially those that were brush-hogged or masticated. La Plata County currently has a 50/50 cost-share grant for weed treatment. Call County Weed Manager Rod Cook for assistance at 382-6470.
As with any year, our fire season will be dictated by when the monsoons arrive. Already the moisture levels in the grasses and trees are declining. A month of warm, dry temperatures could leave us ripe for a wildfire. It might just happen a few weeks later.
One preparation that doesn’t change is the need for an evacuation plan. Wildfire brings on the threat but so does potential flooding from heavy rain, something that doesn’t affect us too often in Southwest Colorado. Regardless of the emergency, the preparations are much the same. A “Go Bag” that will tide you over for 48-72 hours is essential. Think of the 5-7 “Ps” of Preparedness – People and Pets, Prescriptions, Papers, Pictures, and Personal Computer or Phone.
If your community is not already engaged in wildfire preparations, bring the subject up at your next Homeowners Association meeting or get your neighbors together for hot dogs and beer. Invite FireWise, the Colorado State Forest Service or your local fire department to come speak with residents – all have information to share and suggestions on getting started.
Need more incentive? Give us a call. New FireWise Ambassadors can receive a free Community Assessment and the opportunity to apply for a Kickstarter grant for a community mitigation project. We can assist with the development of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which outlines your wildfire risk and actions you can take to reduce that risk. We also offer a Chipper Rebate Program, and this year, we have grant money for mitigation work in the Vallecito area, as well as Archuleta County.
Our goal at FireWise is to help you to prepare for the inevitable wildfire. If you haven’t yet started, it’s time.
Pam Wilson is executive director for FireWise of Southwest Colorado and can be reached at 385-8909 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The San Juan Mountains Association is the 501c3 fiscal agent for FireWise.