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Some roads, trails around 416 Fire start to open

Closure area will shrink Friday, Forest Service says
The Lower Hermosa Creek Trail suffered varying degrees of damage from the 416 Fire. This picture shows erosion and dead, burned trees that have fallen across the trail.

Some roads, trails around 416 Fire start to open

The Lower Hermosa Creek Trail suffered varying degrees of damage from the 416 Fire. This picture shows erosion and dead, burned trees that have fallen across the trail.
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For people who receive a pre-evacuation notice, these steps can improve safety and expedite departure should an evacuation become necessary.

Inside the house

  • Gather medications.
  • Pack a bag with clothing and essentials.
  • Shut off air conditioning and fans.
  • Shut all windows and doors before leaving.
  • If you have time, gather paperwork and photographs that cannot be replaced.

Outside the house

  • Gather flammable items and bring them inside (patio furniture, children’s toys, door mats, trash cans, etc.).
  • Move propane barbecue appliances away from structures.
  • Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters.
  • Fill water buckets and place them around the house.
  • Don’t leave sprinklers or water running; this can affect critical water pressure.
  • Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or darkness of night.
  • Back your car into the driveway with vehicle loaded and all doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.

Animals

  • Locate your pets and keep them nearby.
  • Prepare livestock for transport and plan to move them to a safe location early.
  • Pack food and medications for your pets.

Insurance

  • Take pictures of the interior of your house to remember and document personal possessions.
  • Determine what is sentimental and can’t be replaced.

Outside the house

  • Close all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked
  • Remove all shades and curtains from windows. Move furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.
  • Turn off pilot lights and air conditioning.
  • Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.

Inside the house

  • Bring combustible items from the exterior of the house inside (e.g., patio furniture, children’s toys, door mats, etc.) If you have a pool, place combustible items in the water.
  • Turn off propane tanks and other gas at the meter.
  • Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running; it can affect critical water pressure.
  • Leave exterior lights on.
  • Have a ladder available.
  • Patrol your property and extinguish all small fires until you leave.

Survival tips if you are trapped

  • Stay in your home until the fire passes. Shelter away from outside walls.
  • Bring garden hoses inside house so embers and flames do not destroy them.
  • Look for spot fires and extinguish if found inside house.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants made of natural fibers such as cotton.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Ensure you can exit the home if it catches fire (remember if it’s not inside the house, it is four to five times hotter outside).
  • Fill sinks and tubs for an emergency water supply. Place wet towels under doors to keep smoke and embers out.
  • After the fire has passed, check your roof and extinguish any fires, sparks, or embers. Check the attic as well.
  • If there are fires that you cannot extinguish, call 911.

Inside the home

  • Walk around the outside of the home to check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage. If there is anything that raises concern, call a building inspector or structural engineer.
  • Do not enter your home if it was damaged by the fire or if you smell gas.
  • Clean and disinfect damaged areas to reduce risk of disease. Hire a professional cleaning company, if necessary.
  • Discard contaminated foods, cosmetics and toys.
  • Mattresses, pillows, foam rubber items, upholstered couches and chairs, books and most paper products damaged by the fire should be thrown out.

Water system

  • Wells or septic systems may have been damaged by the fire, so the health department suggests taking plenty of bottled water when residents return to their homes.
  • Inspect wells or other systems of water delivery for damage. If damage exists, don’t drink the water and contact a professional for repairs.
  • If water tastes earthy, smoky or burnt, water lines may need to be flushed. If residents have any concerns, they should contact a professional. Residents on public water systems should contact their provider with any questions or concerns.

Supply kit

  • Three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food for family.
  • First-aid kit and sanitation supplies.
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries.
  • An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks.
  • Extra eyeglasses, contact lenses, prescriptions and medications.
  • Important family documents and contact numbers including insurance documents.
  • Easily carried valuables and irreplaceable items.
  • Personal electronic devices and chargers.
  • Keep a pair of old shoes and a flashlight handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.

Defensible space is the space between a structure and the wildland area that, under normal conditions, creates a sufficient buffer to slow or halt the spread of fire to a structure. It protects the home from igniting from direct flame or radiant heat. Defensible space is essential to help protect a structure during a wildland fire.

Zone 1 – zero to 30 feet around home

This zone requires the most intense modification and treatment. The distance is measured from the outside edge of the home’s eaves and any attached structures, such as decks. Do not plant directly beneath windows or next to foundation vents. Frequently prune and maintain plants in this zone to limit vigorous growth. Remove dead branches, stems and leaves. Do not store firewood or other combustible materials in this area. Enclose or screen decks with metal screening. Extend gravel coverage under the decks. Do not use areas under decks for storage. If Ponderosa pine, aspen or blue spruce are growing in this zone, consider them part of the structure and extend the distance of the entire defensible space accordingly. Isolate the tree from any other surrounding trees. Prune low-lying branches (ladder fuels that would allow a surface fire to climb into the tree) and any branches that interfere with the roof or are within 10 feet of the chimney. In all other areas, prune all branches of shrubs or trees up to a height of 10 feet above ground (or one-third the height, whichever is the least).

Zone 2 – 30 to 100 feet around home

This zone features fuel reduction efforts and serves as a transitional area between Zones 1 and 3. Remove stressed, diseased, dead or dying trees and shrubs. Thin and prune the remaining larger trees and shrubs. Be sure to extend thinning along either side of your driveway all the way to your main access road. These actions help eliminate the continuous fuel surrounding a structure while enhancing home site safety and the aesthetics of the property. Keep grass and wildflowers under 8 inches in height. Regularly remove leaf and needle debris from the yard.

Zone 3 – 100 to 200 feet from home

The healthiest forest is one that has multiple ages, sizes and species of trees where adequate growing room is maintained over time, so maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between the tops of trees. Remove ladder fuels, creating a separation between low-level vegetation and tree branches to keep fire from climbing up trees. A greater number of wildlife trees can remain in Zone 3, but regularly remove dead trees and shrubs. Ensure trees in this area do not pose a threat to power lines or access roads.

Stage 1

  • Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning on private property in the unincorporated private land areas of La Plata County.
  • The use of a campfire, coal or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal grill or open fire in any undeveloped area is prohibited.
  • The fire restrictions do not include charcoal fires in suitable containers or gas grills for barbecues at private residences or fires within designated campground pits with protective grates; however, residents and visitors must not leave these fires unattended and must carefully and fully extinguish them after use.
  • The open flame prohibitions also include the following:
    • Smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings, developed recreational areas and 3-foot-wide areas cleared of vegetation.
    • Fireworks are prohibited.
    • Use of explosive material is prohibited.
    • Use of any internal combustion engine is prohibited unless it is equipped with an approved and functioning spark-arresting device.
    • Welding and cutting operations must be conducted with a 20-foot radius safe zone free of vegetation with a 2.5-gallon pressurized fire extinguisher or 5-pound ABC extinguisher or pressurized water supply and proper hand tools on-site with a fire-watch individual standing by continuously.
  • Flaring for production wells may be allowed with approval from the designated fire chief.

Stage 2

In addition to maintaining previous restrictions, Stage 2 adds additional closures/restrictions/ prohibitions:

  • No campfires, including in developed campgrounds and recreation areas. No charcoal or coal barbecues or wood-burning stoves. Gas, pressurized canister powered stoves with shut-off valves are allowed if they are at least 3 feet away from flammable material such as grass.
  • No open burning, burn barrels or agricultural burns without prior approval.
  • No smoking, except for in a building or vehicle.
  • No welding, use of open-flame torches, pipe-fitting, or metal grinding without a fire-watch official present with proper mitigation tools.
  • Oil and gas welding and cutting operations can be done only in an area with a radius of at least 20 feet from all flammable materials.
  • No use of equipment with an internal combustion engine without a properly installed spark arresting device, including chain saws, ATVs and generators.
  • No use of chain saws without a spark-arresting device and a readily accessible fire extinguisher and shovel.
  • No explosives such as fireworks and tracer round bullets.
  • Note that agencies such as the Forest Service may have different restrictions.
  • In the San Juan National Forest:
    • No traveling off marked roads, trails and parking areas in cars or off-road vehicles.
    • Discharging a firearm, air rifle or gas gun is prohibited on all land in the San Juan National Forest.

Stage 3

In addition to maintaining previous restrictions, Stage 3 adds additional closures/restrictions/ prohibitions:

  • The closure of all La Plata County owned trails, encampments, open space, and unimproved lands.
  • Those agricultural producers exempt from fire bans pursuant to C.R.S. §§ 30-15-401(n.5)(III) and 35-28-104(11) may perform agricultural burning only with 48 hours prior notification to the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff.
  • Indoor fire places and wood-burning stoves without an approved interior and exterior chimney spark arrestor.
  • The sale, discharge or use of any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device (including 4th of July celebrations).
  • The use of floating sky lanterns, fire balloons or acetylene balloons.
  • Discharge of firearms or the use of exploding targets, unless under the circumstances described in C.R.S. § 30-15-302.
  • Blasting in development areas or construction areas.
  • The use of an explosive, blasting caps, or any other incendiary device, including the use of any model rockets.
  • Flaring for oil and gas production wells.
  • Operation of coal-fired steam engines.
  • Certain exemptions apply to these prohibitions. They include:
    • Any federal, state or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.
    • Flaring at centralized processing and compressing facilities is permitted so long as all conditions and requirements issued by applicable regulators are satisfied.
    • Emergency repair of public utilities.
  • Fires permitted by the La Plata County Sheriff or local fire chiefs within their jurisdiction, if, in their professional opinions, such action is appropriate, safe and prudent.

San Juan Basin Public Health advises that residents consider limiting outdoor activity or remain indoors if smoke is thick or becomes thick in neighborhoods. This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young, and the elderly. Consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill. If visibility is less than five miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy. Call CO-HELP for more information related to air quality: 1-877-462-2911, Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tips to protect yourself

  • Close windows and doors and stay inside. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.
  • Only if they are filtered, run the air conditioning, your evaporative cooler, or the fan feature on your home heating system (with the heat turned off). Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Filtered air typically has less smoke than the air outdoors. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.
  • Use HEPA room air filtration units if you have them.
  • Avoid smoking and/or secondhand smoke, vacuuming, candles, and other sources of additional air pollution.
  • Do not use paper dust masks; these do not filter out the particles and gases in smoke.
  • As temperatures cool in the evening inversion conditions worsen and smoke in low lying areas may become thicker, especially if the outdoor air is still. It tends to be worst near dawn.
  • Close bedroom windows at night.
  • To prepare for nighttime smoke, consider airing out your home during the early or middle of the afternoon when smoke tends to be more diluted. Use your best judgment. If smoke is thick during the day, follow the tips above.

Should I wear a face mask?

San Juan Basin Public Health recommends people seek advice from their primary care physician regarding if they should wear a mask in our smoky conditions. The physician will know best the health of their patients and make appropriate recommendations based on that knowledge.

  • Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 provide some protection – they filter out fine particles but not hazardous gases (such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and acrolein). This type of mask can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies.
  • Choose an N95 or N100 mask that has two straps that go around your head. Don’t choose a one-strap paper dusk mask or a surgical mask that hooks around your ears – these don’t protect against the fine particles in smoke.
  • Choose a size that fits over your nose and under your chin. It should seal tightly to your face. These masks don’t come in sizes that fit young children.
  • If your child is experiencing respiratory symptoms contact your pediatrician or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • Don’t use bandanas or towels (wet or dry) or tissue held over the mouth and nose. These may relieve dryness, but they won’t protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.

Anyone with lung or heart disease who is chronically ill should check with their health care provider before using any mask. Using respirator masks can make it harder to breathe, which may make existing medical conditions worse. The extra effort it takes to breathe through a respirator mask can make it uncomfortable to use them for very long. These masks should be used mostly by people who have any health conditions listed above, are elderly, or who need to engage in strenuous exertion outdoors. Please contact your primary health care provider if symptoms persist or become more severe. For more information, visit San Juan Basin Health’s website at http://sjbpublichealth.org/

San Juan Basin Public Health and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have placed air quality monitors in the area to show the amount of all the microscopic particles in the air that can cause respiratory problems, especially for individuals with respiratory illnesses or heart disease, the elderly, and children.

DISCLAIMER: When viewing data on the map view of PurpleAir.com, note that the real-time concentration of fine particulates is displayed. While this information is useful, CDPHE and SJBPH advise using the 24-hour average of PM2.5 for health recommendations. The PM2.5 24-hour average is the official health standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.