Preparing the firefighter in you


Posted Mon, Mar 10, 2014

One of the trucks in the Evergreen Fire Rescue fleet.

One of the trucks in the Evergreen Fire Rescue fleet. [Photo by Sarah Courtney]

EVERGREEN, Colo. – Firefighters across the state fear another tough year dealing with wildfires, even though snow pack is up 117 percent compared to last year and current fire danger is rated moderate.

Residents in Evergreen are being pressed to take extra precautions in preparing their homes and families for this coming year. The Evergreen and Clear Creek Fire Departments, Sheriff’s offices and Animal Control personnel led a Wildland Fire Forum to help the community prepare.

Mike Weege, Chief of the Evergreen Fire Rescue (EFR) team said, “Spring is not looking too good for us. We are nervous.”

According to Weege, last year at this time the reservoirs were down, fields were dry, and snow was not falling nearly enough. This year snow pack has increased in the higher mountains, but the eastern side of the state is still bare and dry. The floods last year filled the lakes and reservoirs, but that is as far as the benefits go. Recent high winds have carried away what little moisture was in the air, and now all that’s left in people’s yards are crunchy and dry fire fuels.

“I’m hoping to gain 100 extra firefighters with all you guys sitting here tonight. You are our first defense, the first responders in a wildfire situation,” said Chris Johnson, Deputy Chief of Fire Operations at EFR.
Firefighters in Jefferson and Clear Creek County are asking people to plan ahead and learn about their Community Wildfire Protection Plan or CWPP. These plans have guides on how to make your house and property more fire resistant, using fire retardant materials on your home and in your landscaping.

Home inspections can be arranged and trees that are potentially hazardous marked for removal. A tax deduction can be filed after a property is mitigated for 50 percent of the total costs to be subtracted from federal taxable income. Deputy Johnson later said that an area that has been mitigated stands a better chance of surviving a fire than one that has been left alone.
“We will risk a lot to save a life, a little to save a property, and we will risk nothing to save what’s already lost,” said Johnson, in hopes of encouraging home owner fire preparations before a disaster strikes.

Local community members ask EFR questions. [Photo by Sarah Courtney]

Local community members ask EFR questions. [Photo by Sarah Courtney]

Preparing your home is only the first step though. Making and practicing a fire evacuation plan is recommended by the fire department and law enforcement. Programs like Firewise and Ready, Set, Go! have tips on their websites and offer courses about fire preparedness. You can use the CWPP set in place for your area as an evacuation plan.
Sheriff’s offices are encouraging the use of Smart911 and CodeRED, reverse 911 calls to your home or cell phone alerting you of a fire or another disaster.

“We are concentrating on getting evacuations and alerts out. CodeRED is a good way to get a hold of a lot of folks,” said Major Rick Albers of the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department. 
A test call from CodeRED is planned for March 5, 2014 to all registered numbers. Signing up for a notification system can be done online, or through various apps for smart phones. 
Local community members shared concerns about first responses.

“Do we have air tanker availability? I know Colorado doesn’t have its own air taskforce,” asked one man. Albers explained that the Colorado government is working to create a pact with other states making a wildfire air response team that can move where it is needed. Jefferson and Clear Creek County have a single engine tanker, and have access to three privately contracted heavy-lift helicopters depending on the level of the fire. Volunteer firefighters in attendance encouraged everyone to get involved in preparing and taking steps to learn more about fire danger.

The Fire Departments and Sheriffs offices are depending on the help of the community in preparation for wildfires before and during a time of disaster. Learn what you can do to help either as a volunteer firefighter or as a private citizen and homeowner.

Useful Links: -Ready, Set, Go!

About Sarah Courtney

Sarah Courtney is a Denver-Area Freelance Writer

View all posts by Sarah Courtney

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