Educating Summit County’s experts |

Educating Summit County’s experts

Breeana Laughlin
Summit Daily/Breeana Laughlin

Local experts tasked with educating the public about emergency preparedness came away from a hazard mitigation meeting this week with some lessons of their own.

Scott Toepfer, a forecaster with Colorado Avalanche Information Center, has worked for years educating the public about avalanche dangers in Summit County. He said Tuesday’s Summit County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan meeting not only gave him the opportunity to spread the word about avalanche danger, but also to learn how to prepare himself for other potential hazards.

“I can deal with the winter stuff because that is what I do for a living, but the wildfire thing really freaks me out,” he said.

The Summit County resident said he lives in an area with a reputation for high wildfire-risk. “My neighbors and I have been working to try to minimize the risk of fire.”

Talking to experts in the wildfire field at the meeting, including CSU extension agent Dan Schroder, gave him a clearer view of what he could do protect his home from a wildfire.

“I’m really glad I was able to come in here and be proactive, so when fire season comes around again I’ll be ahead of the game,” Toepfer said. “Maybe now if a fire comes through, my house will survive because of the help I got from this. That’s huge. I built my own house. I don’t want to see it burn.”

Kathleen Martynowicz, a volunteer with the Red Cross preparedness team, said she too was thankful she attended the even.

“I’ve learned some things to do to protect my own property against wildfire,” she said. “One of those is taking things off your deck, because furniture can fuel the fire and may move the fire to deck or the home itself.”

Residents who attended the event were invited to discuss their concerns and priorities for reducing the risk of hazards that come with the territory when living in Summit County — wildfire, avalanches, flooding, winter storms and more.

Their feedback will be addressed in a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan. The plan will help local jurisdictions find funding for federal disaster assistance and hazard mitigation programs, said Joel Cochran, Summit County’s emergency management director.

A draft of the multi-hazard plan is available at The director will continue to seek public comment on the document through July 31. Comments can be sent to

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