After around 130 homes were evacuated between the Weber and Roatcap fires in Montezuma County last year, the concern about fellow residents starting fires is well founded. But you may put yourself at ease by making yourself and your family prepared for a safe and effective evacuation.
Regardless of whether you feel there is little wildfire danger on the property where you live or that your property is at great risk, no matter if you own or rent, before a wildfire is the best time to prepare.
Making yourself and your family ready for an efficient and effective evacuation is the most important thing you can do to prepare for wildfire season.
Evacuation readiness starts with a good to-go bag with everything you will need for several days. In addition to personal items such as clothing and toiletries, there are a few items that you should include if they pertain to you.
Pack a few days' worth of any critical prescription medications and an extra set of eye glasses or lenses.
Make a copy of your car key(s) and keep them readily available in your to go bag.
This is especially important if you or someone in the family frequently finds they are looking for the keys. Looking for the keys will be the last thing you want to deal with when the smoke of an oncoming wildfire is forcing your evacuation.
A back-up hard drive for a computer can be kept in your to-go bag.
Have a pet carrier, food, leash, and dish readily available for a quick evacuation with your pet(s). Make a plan for any livestock.
Take your own special considerations into account and coordinate with friends and neighbors to assist each other in the event someone is not home when an evacuation becomes necessary. If there is time, you can help each other.
As part of your ready to go preparations, legal and insurance documents can be copied and kept in a safe deposit box or with a trusted friend or relative, not a neighbor.
This can save you the hassle of gathering your important documents in the precious few minutes you may have to evacuate. It is also critical if no one is home when a wildfire threatens. You may also choose to have copies made of some of your favorite photos if you do not have them electronically. Keep these offsite copies up to date.
Finally, a step by step prioritized evacuation checklist on the fridge will help you maintain focus to evacuate safely. In addition to this checklist of things to do when a wildfire threatens (adapted from Firewise Communities), make your own list to fit your household's specific needs.
More information about emergency evacuation can be found at www.ready.gov, by contacting the Montezuma County emergency manager, or me, the public wildfire prevention and education specialist for the Montezuma County fire chiefs, at 564-4007 to assess your wildfire risk and help identify your short list of evacuation considerations.
Rebecca Samulski is wildfire prevention and education specialist for the Montezuma County Fire Chiefs Association and Montezuma Chapter coordinator for FireWise of Southwest Colorado.