Firefighters log extra hours to survey homes
SILVERTHORNE – It’s a Thursday morning and Emily Jury just finished up her 24-hour shift as a firefighter at Lake Dillon Fire Authority’s (LDFA) Dillon station.But she’s not done protecting the community. Next, she sits in the office at the Frisco station, catching a moment of rest before she starts her “second job” surveying homes around the county to identify and document potential wildfire risks.She’s tired, but ready to take on the task.”It’s a great benefit for us to get to know the area,” Jury said. “There are places we’ve never been. There are houses where we don’t know where the water supply is.”This summer, Jury and fellow firefighters Patrick Grout and Cody McGinnis will spend 30 to 40 hours a week, on top of the 72 hours they already log as firefighters, to complete the RedZone Survey.
The survey consists of 25 questions that help identify dangers to structures and ideas to create defensible spaces around homes.It takes the three-person crew about 10 to 15 minutes to move through.So far, the team has only surveyed four homes, but Jury and Grout spent Thursday morning checking out a fifth residence on Tanglewood Lane in Silverthorne. The ultimate goal is that in the event of a wildfire, fire officials will be able to determine if any home will be threatened and what kind of access they have to the property.When the team arrivesGrout used a GPS unit to determine the latitude and longitude of the home, while Jury answered the list of questions that are saved into her Palm Pilot.”Balconies, decks, porches? Not hazardous.”
“Eaves? Not present.”The two measured the length of the home’s driveway to the home and the width of Tanglewood Lane, then determined whether a fire truck would be able to turn around in the home’s driveway.They took note of the types of trees and landscaping in the yard and checked the materials from which home’s siding and roof were made.Before they left, Grout snapped a digital photograph of the home.All the information entered into the Palm Pilot will be downloaded into a database, where it can be reviewed by project manager Patti Maguire, who is the county’s wildfire mitigation officer.The data can then be made into reports that show things like water supply, safety zone information and maps of access routes.Additionally, if Maguire, hypothetically, wanted to apply for certain fire-related grants, she could use the data to see where the county’s needs are.
“I should be able to look at the water statistics and say, ‘Well, gee, we’re a little shy of what we need to protect these homes north of Silverthorne,'” Maguire said.Eventually, the database will include a profile for every home in the county.Once it’s done …Completing the entire survey will be a hefty chore, even with the help of Copper Mountain and Red, White and Blue Fire departments, which will cover homes in their respective jurisdictions.”It’s obviously not going to happen in one summer,” said LDFA public affairs coordinator Rachel Flood. Firefighters are starting with neighborhoods considered to be higher danger because of access to the home, availability of a water supply and proximity to National Forest lands. Areas such as Ptarmigan, Wildernest, Mesa Cortina, Keystone Ranch and Bill’s Ranch are top priorities.
Lower danger areas are generally homes located in the towns because they are within five minutes from a fire station, are serviced by at least a 22-foot wide street that’s safe in all weather conditions and are hooked up to the municipal water supply.The project is especially exciting for Maguire, who began the process last summer by gaining approval from the fire chiefs and applying for grants.The Bureau of Land Management awarded her $8,000, which was used to purchase the RedZone software and other equipment. She is set to receive another $10,000 grant, also from the Bureau, which will pay for the employees’ hours in the field.Maguire hopes the survey will be completed by the end of next summer, barring extenuating circumstances.”If it was a big fire season and some of my crewmembers got sent away for 21 days, it would hurt,” she said.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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