With Dry Season Underway, Time to Think Wildfire Preparedness
by Watch Staff
May 27, 2012 | 1590 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – The wildfire season began early here on the western slope. The combination of unusually high temperatures and dry conditions, combined with light winter snowpack, have increased the risk for extreme wildfire, particularly as temperatures increase through June. The Sheriff’s Office would like to encourage residents to take personal responsibility and prepare long before a wildfire, so your home is ready, in case.

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 spot. Make sure all people residing within the home are on the same page. Plan escape routes. Following your family action plan makes you prepared, and firefighters are then able to best handle the wildfire, increasing your and your family’s safety.

Traditionally, mid-May marks the start of wildfire season locally, but this year’s season began early with multiple fires occurring in Gunnison County in April. As a result of these early fires, ‘Stage ‘1 fire restrictions have been implemented and will take effect May 21st in Gunnison County. Stage 1 restrictions stipulate that you may have a campfire in a permanently constructed fire grate or in a developed campground, and smoking is limited to certain places.

San Miguel County fire officials, along with federal and state officials, are discussing whether or not to implement similar restrictions as fire conditions continue to worsen locally. According to the National Weather Service, the drought in the state of Colorado is going to persist and intensify as the summer moves forward.

EVACUATION PREPAREDNESS

When a fire starts, pack your vehicle with your emergency items. Stay aware of the latest news from local media and your local fire department for updated information on the fire. Sign up for WENS (Wireless Emergency Notification) on the county’s web site or call 728-4442 to be added manually if you do not have access to the web. If you are warned to evacuate your home and move to another location temporarily, there are certain things to remember to do; here are the most important ones:

1. Follow the Instructions and advice of local government. If you are told to evacuate, do so promptly. San Miguel County officials will announce on local radio stations (KOTO, KVNF, KRYD and Mountain Chill) and send a WENS message if areas are to be evacuated.

2. If you are instructed to go to a certain location, go there - DON'T go anywhere else. If certain travel routes are specified or recommended, use those routes rather than trying to find short cuts of your own.

3. If you are advised to shut off your water, gas, or electric service before leaving home, do so. Also, find out on the radio where emergency housing and mass feeding stations are located, in case you need to use them. For San Miguel County’s east end, the Telluride High School is the designated Red Cross Shelter.

If you have time and you have not received other instructions from your local government, you should take the following actions before leaving your home: secure your home before leaving, bring outside possessions inside or tie them down securely. This includes outdoor furniture, garbage cans, garden tools, signs, and other movable objects that might be blown or washed away. Lock house doors and windows.

WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS

Wildfires occur as a result of lightning or man-made causes such as discarded cigarettes and campfires. A fire in your home may spread to the forest. Homes in or near forested areas are classified as Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas and are at risk in any wildfire event. When you build or buy a home in one of the WUI areas, you have accepted the fact that these areas may have poor access, dense vegetation, steep slopes, and poor or no water supply for fire suppression. To prevent a tragedy, you need to be aware of wildfire hazards and what to do when a wildfire occurs in your area.

When moving to a new area, check with your local fire department to determine the wildfire hazard in your area, and what can be done to reduce the hazard. Obtain guidelines for creating a “defensible space” around your home and make other improvements to increase the chances that it can survive a wildfire. Create defensible space of at least 30 ft. by doing the following:

• Reducing density of surrounding forest.

• Trimming branches.

• Thinning tree and brush cover.

• Removing dead limbs and other litter.

• Maintaining an irrigated greenbelt.

• Mowing dry grasses and weeds.

• Cleaning your roof and gutters.

• Pruning branches to 10 ft. above the ground.

• Other improvements include improving driveway access and water supplies, having a fire resistant roof, enclosing overhanging eaves and decks, spark arresters on chimney, etc.

For more information contact Jennifer Dinsmore, San Miguel County Public Information Officer, at 970/728-9546.

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