Editor’s note: This is the third in a multi-part series submitted by local forest and fire experts addressing the impact of the drought on wildfire, water supply, recreation and Summit County’s forests. The series appears on Fridays in the Daily.
Living in a wildland interface community poses special challenges to us. We need to partner with our friends, family, neighbors and emergency personnel to take personal responsibility for preparing our properties and community for a wildland fire. This partnership allows us to become an active part of the solution to the problem of increasing fire losses. There are three steps each of us can take to help make our communities safer.
The first step to reducing wildfire loss is to create a defensible space around your property. This buffer zone helps reduce the risks of flying embers from igniting weeds and brush. Vegetation, when not maintained, becomes easily ignitable and can move a wildland fire from the forest to a subdivision.
In recent studies, embers have been found to travel distances greater than one mile. This means that we all need to take some time to create buffer zones around our homes. Fire departments throughout Summit County would be happy to visit your property to help you create a plan for your buffer zone. Contact your local fire department to receive this assistance.
The next step is to be ready. Do you have a family disaster plan? This plan helps establish a meeting place for your family to report to if you are not all together during an evacuation. Preparing your family helps ensure that you will be safe when an evacuation is ordered. Practice evacuating from your home by establishing the routes you can take and how you will communicate with your family.
As part of being ready, you should have a box with important documents, medications and phone lists that you can grab when an evacuation is ordered.
You also need to develop a plan for your animals. Larger animals take longer to evacuate, especially when they need to be loaded into trailers. Planning early and practicing can ensure that you are ready to go before an evacuation order.
Be attentive to what is going on around you. Tune into your local radio stations and to SCAlert for updates on what is going on. Have your vehicle and animals ready to leave prior to the evacuation being ordered. You will be able to evacuate immediately if you are packed.
By leaving early you give yourself and your family the best chance of surviving a wildfire. This also helps keep the roads clear of congestion when firefighters need to access your neighborhood.
Leaving early also helps reduce the likelihood of being caught in the smoke.
This is where all the planning and being READY is used. GO to your predetermined location, which should be a safe meeting point for your family. Drive safely!
By being a Ready, Set, Go! partner you are helping to create a more fire-resistant property, you are getting your family prepared for an evacuation and you are leaving early and safely.
For more information on the Ready, Set, Go! program or for assistance with emergency preparedness, contact your local fire department.
Jay Nelson is the deputy chief of the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District, which covers Breckenridge and the Upper Blue River Basin.