Summit Fire & EMS offers tips for protecting your home and family this winter |

Summit Fire & EMS offers tips for protecting your home and family this winter

The aftermath of a house explosion in Breckenridge earlier this year caused by a piece of ice falling off the roof and shearing a gas line. Summit Fire & EMS recommends routinely — and gently — clearing snow and ice from gas meters around homes.
Hugh Carey /

FRISCO — Whether you’re taking to the roads following a storm, going for a stroll through town or just relaxing at home, winter in the mountains brings with it some serious safety concerns.

Luckily, Summit Fire & EMS spokesman Steve Lipsher has some tips to help everyone in the community stay safe as conditions begin to turn for the worse.

On the move

While visitors are often concerned about avalanches or blizzards, Lipsher said the biggest safety risks are those that might seem somewhat innocuous. The biggest, for example, is slipping. Lipsher recommended pedestrians consider bringing a walking stick or traction cleats when they head out for a walk or hike.

“Believe it or not, the No. 1 accident and safety risk people encounter are slips and falls on icy sidewalks and walkways,” Lipsher said. “Especially the way our winter has started, we’re seeing a lot more ice and a lot less snow so far.”

But perhaps the most dangerous concern for people on the move during the winter is driving in inclement weather and on icy roadways. Lipsher said there’s dozens of crashes in the area with each snowstorm. Drivers should make sure they have all-weather tires — or preferably snow tires — on their vehicles and should plan to leave early so they can drive slow.

Lipsher also said residents in the area should keep a winter survival kit in their cars, filled with essentials like extra warm clothes, a sleeping bag, shovel, ice scraper, first-aid kid, jumper cables, phone charger, flares, food and water. And drivers should avoid letting their gas tanks get too low.

“All of these things are for the possibility you could slide off a road or get stuck in a snowdrift and can’t get out,” Lipsher said. “But when you’re on the road, we cannot emphasize enough the need for all motorists to slow down, give lots of room, signal your intentions and drive predictably.”

At home

There are also plenty of things that residents can do to make sure they’re safe in the comfort of their own homes this winter. 

Inside, everyone should make sure their carbon monoxide detectors are properly working. As homeowners fire up their furnaces, the dangerous gas can begin to build up if the furnace flue is blocked or clogged. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can be lethal.

Lipsher also noted that people should be careful not to place anything too close to space heaters and to be sure to extinguish any candles after use. Another common mistake people make is leaving windows open overnight, which can lead to freezing fire-sprinkler lines and can result in flooding.

One major issue homeowners should be aware of is snow building up on roofs. In 2017, the roof of the Ten Mile Room collapsed in Breckenridge under the weight of snow. Lipsher said that while there is no set rule for when it’s necessary to clear your roof of snow, homeowners should keep an eye out for creaking inside the structure, leaking from the roof or doors and windows not closing correctly, all of which can be signs of too much weight. There is also a county building inspection department matrix that helps residents check parameters for snow loads.

Of note, homeowners should take care when clearing snow off their roofs. Just last year, a man was killed in Crested Butte after being buried by a roof avalanche. Lipsher said residents should use a snow rake if they’re trying to clear their roof themselves, make sure not to position themselves in a spot where they could get buried and not try to clear snow alone.

“You want to be in a position where you are not below the snow accumulation, to where if you broke a piece of it loose, the rest is going to be collapsing down on you,” Lipsher said. “That is very dangerous, and if you get buried, you could find yourself the victim of a very true avalanche right in your front yard.”

Finally, residents should be sure to routinely — and gently — clear snow and ice from gas meters around their homes. Earlier this year, a Breckenridge home exploded with two men inside after a piece of ice slid off the roof and sheared the gas line outside the house.

If your gas meter is blocked by snow or ice, any rupture potentially could create a buildup of gas inside a house or crawlspace, which could be ignited by any number of sources.

“We always just want to get out some of these basic tips every winter, especially when we have such a transient community,” Lipsher said. “I remember when I moved up here from Texas, and I thought I would die. Everyone just has to learn how to dress for it, what to carry and how to be prepared.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User