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Wildland Fire Evacuation Exercise in Ken-Caryl Valley May 21, 2016

Citizens are moving farther into natural areas such as Ken-Caryl to take advantage of the privacy, natural beauty and recreational opportunities. As a result, fire departments are fighting fires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), defined as areas where homes are built near or among lands prone to wildland fire. The increase in the WUI threat has been steep because of continued development and exposure.

The WUI is not a place but a set of conditions that can exist in nearly every community. The Wildland Urban Interface can be a major subdivision such as Ken-Caryl Valley, or it can be four homes on an open range. According to the National Fire Protection Association, WUI conditions include: the amount, type and distribution of vegetation; the flammability of the structures (homes, decks, fences) in the area; proximity of structures to fire-prone vegetation and to other combustible structures; weather conditions; topography; average lot size; and road construction.

On May 21, emergency vehicles will swarm into Ken-Caryl Valley as citizens are evacuating from a simulated wildfire. The response by fire departments and law enforcement may look real, but it will only be a drill. The simulated wildfire response and evacuation exercise is sponsored by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management and West Metro Fire Rescue.

Those living in Ken-Caryl Valley and the North Ranch will be invited to take part in a voluntary community evacuation drill. The exercise will begin at 8 a.m., and the evacuation will start at 9 a.m. Residents of the area will receive an evacuation notice via telephone. Residents who have signed up with CodeRed will also receive notification via smartphone. Participating residents should evacuate safely with their family members in their car and can meet at the evacuation point (Chatfield High School) if they choose. The drill is meant to simulate a real-life emergency and test evacuation procedures.

Prepare your home, family, friends and neighbors to safely evacuate from Ken-Caryl. After you have protected your home, it’s time to prepare your family. The Ready, Set, Go! Program prepares you and your family for a wildfire within Ken-Caryl. Fire season is an increasing threat and a year-round reality in Ken-Caryl. Do your part to be prepared with Ready, Set, Go:

• Ready – Be Ready, Be Firewise. Take personal responsibility and prepare long before the threat of a wildland fire so your home is ready in case of a fire. Create defensible space by clearing brush away from your home. Use fire-resistant landscaping and harden your home with fire-safe construction measures. Assemble emergency supplies and belongings in a safe place. Plan escape routes and make sure all those residing in the home know the plan of action.
• Set – Situational Awareness. Pack your emergency items and prepare for evacuation of your pets. Know how to receive and stay aware of the latest news and information on the fire from local media, social media and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office via CodeRed. Sign up at http://jeffco.us/sheriff/emergencies/code-red/.
• Go – Act Early! Follow your Personal Wildland Fire Action Plan. Doing so will not only support your safety but will allow firefighters to best maneuver resources to combat the fire.

The May 21 wildfire response and evacuation exercise will prepare the Ken-Caryl community for a major wildland fire, such as those that have struck the Waldo Canyon or Black Forest areas with similar WUI issues. Safety of the citizens, firefighters and law enforcement during the exercise is the primary goal. Residents of Ken-Caryl have an opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive in preparing for a WUI fire. Preparation, mitigation and safe evacuation is beneficial for us as residents and for our neighbors. Additional information will be provided by West Metro and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office prior to the evacuation exercise on May 21.

This article appeared in the March 9, 2016 issue of Life at Ken-Caryl.

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