Recent Front Range Wildfires Demonstrate Need for Preparation in Ken-Caryl
Recent wildland fires to the north and south of Ken-Caryl have underscored the fact that evacuation can be a reality. According to news reports, over 2,000 people evacuated their homes as a result of the Cold Springs fire east of Nederland, Colorado.
To be prepared for a wildfire, it’s important to be ready to evacuate quickly. This means monitoring alerts and warnings information via social media, having a family communication plan, knowing evacuation routes, and having personal items and documents in order. We all enjoy the beauty of Ken-Caryl but must recognize the risks of living in this environment.
Every year across Colorado, some homes survive – while many others do not – after a major wildfire. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for the eventuality of fire, which is an inescapable force of nature in the fire-prone Wildland Urban Interface. Do you have a plan for a wildfire?
Wildfires are reaching beyond traditional fire seasons, burning earlier and smoldering later in the year than they have historically, claiming lives and hitting millions of acres of land with billions of dollars in damages. Hotter, drier summers and warmer winters are leading these hazards to become year-round threats for Colorado. As a firefighter I have fought wildfires in every month of the year, sometimes shoveling snow onto burning grasses and brush.
When it comes to wildland fires and other hazards, Jefferson County has three levels of evacuation notices:
Level 1: Be Ready
There is an incident in the area. Residents are advised of the level 1 evacuation and are asked to leave if they need additional time to exit an area or have health conditions (especially respiratory conditions that could be made worse by smoke). Residents are encouraged to move livestock and pets out of the area and to prepare for a full evacuation. Evacuations are voluntary, but residents are encouraged to leave if concerned. There will be no road closures in effect in most cases.
Level 2: Leave Soon
Residents are notified there is a full evacuation and are informed to leave. Evacuations are mandatory and entry to evacuated areas may be denied. Residents are encouraged to evacuate as soon as possible. Residents MAY have time to gather necessary items, but doing so is at their own risk.
Level 3: Leave Immediately!
Residents are notified there is immediate and imminent danger, and they should evacuate immediately. DO NOT delay leaving to gather any belongings or make efforts to protect your home. Leave immediately and as quickly as possible. Doing so will not only support your safety, but will allow firefighters to best maneuver resources to combat the fire.
If you feel threatened by an approaching wildfire, do not wait for an evacuation notification. Prepare your home and family and begin a safe evacuation away from the fire. Having a complete 72 hour kit at the ready is going to ease the task of deciding what to take, and as always having a plan in place will eliminate a whole lot of confusion when the time comes to evacuate. Get a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Informed is still the theme for every disaster. The best time to make ready is now, before the flames are visible on the crest of hill or sweeping through the grasslands near your home.
Prepare your home for wildfires:
• Clear your gutters, roof, eaves, deck and crawlspaces of debris—this material is flammable.
• If you see branches that overhang structures on your property, trim them back up to 6-10 feet from the ground.
• Check your insurance! Look at your homeowner’s policy to make sure you’re up-to-date, and prepare or update a list of your home’s contents.
• With Ken-Caryl in the Wildland Urban Interface, consider taking the zone approach with your landscaping, creating defensible space around your home that embers and small flames will have difficulty bridging.
Prepare your family for wildfires:
• Discuss evacuation with your family. Young and old, everyone needs to be on the same page about your risks and plan for wildfire.
• Make a family communications plan so everyone knows how to reach everyone else—you may become separated from your phone during a crisis and lose access to saved numbers.
• Maintain an emergency supply kit—if you already have one made, take the time to make sure that all of the materials are up-to-date.
• Have everyone review the steps to take if they become trapped during a wildfire.
Join the Ken-Caryl Firewise Board, West Metro Fire Rescue and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, Sept. 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Shaffer Room at the Ranch House for “Preparing for Wildfire in Ken-Caryl.”
This article appeared in the July 27 issue of Life at Ken-Caryl.