Letter to the editor: Summit County should heed lessons from Camp Fire | SummitDaily.com

Letter to the editor: Summit County should heed lessons from Camp Fire

Jay Johnson

Today, early snowmelt is accelerating spring in the Rockies and increasing the potential for a longer and more severe fire season than in 2020.

I decided to assess Summit County’s emergency planning and compare it to the Paradise, California, Camp Fire. After extensive research and interviews with public safety officials, I uncovered gaps across public safety and public policy:

  • If the Peak 2 fire were to happen again with winds out of the northwest at 35-plus knots, the fire would crown, placing it on Main Street Breckenridge in under 90 minutes. The Office of Emergency Management estimates it would take five-plus hours to safely evacuate Breckenridge. On Labor Day weekend, Breckenridge has 35,000 visitors, equating to 13,000 cars. During an evacuation, that would result in 57 miles of end-to-end traffic.
  • The current emergency management plan uses a reverse 911 system to alert all cellphones that have pinged local towers. If cell towers fail, this leaves law enforcement radios for coordination while fire crews are fighting the fire.

The loss of life could be catastrophic.

I propose the Summit County commissioners and Breckenridge Town Council hold a town hall to discuss the following:

  • The potential of billions of dollars available to towns in Sen. Michael Bennet’s proposed Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act
  • The Frontline documentary “Fire in Paradise”
  • New evacuation plans for Breckenridge and surrounding towns of Summit County
  • A five-year investment plan to address all current gaps in evacuation planning

I also propose local officials invite those from Paradise for a two-day working session to review Summit County’s plans and present their findings at this town hall.

I hope residents of Summit County call for this town hall so that we understand our evacuation plans.



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