By Doug Bess, Salida Fire Chief
This summer the state of Colorado suffered catastrophic losses from wildfires. With September being declared “Emergency Preparedness Month” by FEMA, I would like to provide some important information regarding preparedness and evacuation in the event of a large wildfire or other natural disaster.
Preparedness begins with your property and your home. Measures can be taken well in advance of a fire. Some key things you can do to protect your home are to create defensible space around your home, remove ladder fuels (such as vines), and landscape with fire resistant plants and grasses or other noncombustible materials such as rocks.
Homes that are within one mile of a fire’s flame front are considered to be in the ember zone and are in danger of wind-blown embers. Embers can ignite leaf litter and pine needles in roof valleys and gutters as well as patio furniture and firewood stacked near the home. Homes in the ember zone might not be subject to evacuation during a fire but they are at extreme risk. Preparedness of your home could save entire neighborhoods by preventing the spread of fire from house to house.
Once your home and property have been addressed, now you must prepare your family. Create a family disaster plan that includes a meeting location, a communication plan and an evacuation route. Knowledge of your home’s utilities, and how to shut them off, is vital.
If a wildfire starts near your home, closely follow the progress of the fire and begin to assemble your belongings for a possible evacuation. If you are given a pre-evacuation notice, that is the time to evacuate. Don’t expect someone to knock on your door and ask you to leave. By leaving early, you insure the safety of you and your family and give firefighters the freedom to operate in neighborhoods that have been well prepared to defend against a wildfire. When residents have left, they eliminate the “Life Safety” risk, allowing firefighters to concentrate on suppression and structure protection.
Remember, preparedness begins with you. Take personal responsibility and prepare long before the event of a wildfire. If you have not taken the time to register your home and cell phones with “Code Red”, please do so. By registering your phone, you will be notified of any threat or natural disaster that may directly affect you, your family, and your home. You can register online at http://chaffeesheriff.org . Click on the communications tab and then the second tab below that for “Code Red”. If you don’t have computer access you can register by calling dispatch at (719) 539-2596. I encourage all residents to review their homeowner’s insurance to insure that you have adequate coverage in the event of a wildfire.
For more detailed information on preparedness and evacuation go to http://www.iafc.org and click on “Ready, Set, Go!” under the programs tab.
Be prepared, be informed!