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Being Firewise: What Ken-Caryl Residents Can Do to Prepare

Hopefully all residents now know that Ken-Caryl Ranch has been recognized as a Firewise Neighborhood. This does not mean that we are ready for a wildfire, but that we are taking steps to better prepare our families, homes and neighborhood for wildfire. Before getting into specific steps to take on how to prepare your home, I want to provide insight from a firefighter’s perspective.

Ken-Caryl is very similar to the Mountain Shadows Neighborhood that was devastated by the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs with the loss of 350 homes. We are adjacent to the foothills, and the potential for home-to-home fire spread is high. Firefighters cannot protect every house. Firefighters in the Wildland Urban Interface use a triage system to determine which homes we are willing to risk our safety to protect. We will risk our lives to save a life, but we must be a little more conservative when it comes to saving property.

If limited resources force us to choose between homes to defend, we will choose properties where residents have made noticeable efforts to improve the home’s chance of surviving a fire. Also, a group of mitigated homes have a better chance of survival compared to a single home. Below are steps Ken-Caryl residents can take to better the chances their home survives a wildfire.

Prepare your property to withstand an ember shower. Fire doesn’t have to be racing through the neighborhood for homes to ignite. Charcoal briquette sized embers can be dropped miles away from the main fire by the high-intensity winds often seen on Red Flag Warning Days:

• Ensure your roof is fire resistive.
• Keep leaves and pine needles from collecting on roofs, in gutters, on and under decks, under overhangs or next to the home.
• Install screens on all vents into the home, including attic, soffit, crawlspace and foundation vents, so large embers can’t get in (1/8 inch is good but 1/16 inch metal screening is best).
• Seal openings where doors and windows don’t close fully; garages are very common.
• Don’t store combustible or flammable materials under decks. If you have no other choice, consider enclosing the area under decks.
Limit ways for fire to get to your home (decorative vegetation can be the fuse that brings fire to the house).
• Keep the first 5 feet around the home free of vegetation. River rock is excellent around the home. Don’t use mulch that butts up against flammable siding.
• Limb up all trees so a surface fire does not climb and ignite the whole tree. Use common sense: the higher the grasses under a tree means either limb higher or keep grasses shorter. Never limb up more than 1/3 the total height of the tree.
• Keep shrubs and decorative grasses pruned and away from the siding.
• Remember fences can be the fuse that brings fire to the home. Consider a small gap (or another solution) between the fence and home.
• Remove overhanging branches or ones that touch the home.
• Move wood piles away from the home.
• Residents on open space should take advantage of the new rule allowing residents to mow 10 feet into open space for fire mitigation.
• Keep landscaping well-watered while obeying local water restrictions.

As you can see, many of the Firewise principles come down to good housekeeping. Visit www.firewise.org for more information about Firewise plants and building materials. For residents needing more assistance, Ken-Caryl Ranch has contracted with the Colorado State Forest Service for residents needing help developing a mitigation plan. Contact the Ken-Caryl Rangers at 303-979-1876, ext. 170, for more information.

Also please make sure your family has an emergency evacuation plan. Guides can be found at www.wildlandfirersg.org. You can also see the Ready, Set, Go checklist on this page. Finally, don’t forget to register for emergency notifications through Code Red by going to http://jeffco.us/sheriff/emergencies/code-red/. This service sends emergency info to your cell phone and email. This is especially important if your home does not have a landline.

This article appeared in the May 4, 2016 issue of Life at Ken-Caryl.

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