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Wildfire Risk: Who’s Responsible?

Only a few years ago, Colorado’s wildfire season was much more predictable and defined – summer. Now we see wildfires every month of the year. All it takes is a few dry days, a spark and high winds to turn a small fire into a big one.

Last October’s North Hogback Fire is a prime example. Sparked by a passing vehicle on C-470, the fire raced up the hogback between Ken Caryl and Bowles Avenues, scorching 35 acres and putting the Ken-Caryl Valley and North Ranch communities on standby to evacuate. Thick smoke and embers carried by strong winds added to the very real danger of potential spot fires within these neighborhoods.

Quick work by the crews from West Metro Fire Rescue, aided by Fairmount, Evergreen Fire, Jefferson County Emergency Management and others, stopped the fire at the top of the hogback.

For the families that went through the uncertainty of those few hours, what it means to live in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area became all too real. The wildfire risk facing residents in the Ken-Caryl Valley and North Ranch communities has been clearly identified in several risk assessments in recent years.

Who is responsible for mitigating the risks posed by wildfire in the WUI? Is it the fire department, the community or the individual homeowner?
West Metro firefighters train regularly in wildland firefighting and have recently completed operational pre-plans for the WUI areas of the District, including Ken-Caryl Valley and North Ranch. However, during a major wildfire, even with help from outside agencies, there simply will not be enough firefighters or fire engines to protect every home.

The Ken-Caryl Firewise Board was recently created to facilitate wildfire mitigation efforts throughout the community. But, ultimately it is YOUR responsibility to protect your life, family, animals and property from wildfire.

So what can you do? There are many simple actions you can take around your home and property that can significantly reduce your risk and increase your preparedness. The Ken-Caryl Firewise Board will distribute information on mitigating wildfire risks at your home and preparation for evacuation at several Ken-Caryl events this spring and summer. Or stop by your local West Metro Fire station to pick up a Ready, Set, Go! Action Guide and talk with the crews. You can also find resources at firewise.org, wildlandfireRSG.org and csfs.colostate.edu.

This article appeared in the April 20, 2016 issue of Life at Ken-Caryl.

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