With recent wildfires affecting thousands of fellow Colorado residents, wildfire is likely to be on many of your minds. When you look around at the critical fire weather and dry forest conditions, consider what it will be like next time the forest is burning near your home or our community. Is your home ready? Is our community ready?
In my role helping homeowners and neighborhoods prepare for wildfires where we live, I have gotten to see properties and homes that are beautifully prepared for wildfire and homes which the homeowners are just beginning to prepare for inevitable wildfires where they live. On a daily basis, I meet residents who hope we don't have a major fire this season or who literally cross their fingers. Fighting my impulse to share everything residents can do to prepare for wildfires in roughly 500 words, there is one thing that I hope you take to heart while firefighters work in sweltering and dangerous conditions to save homes from wildfires throughout Colorado and the country.
The safety of your family and your property is ultimately your responsibility!
Our firefighters are amazing. I get to work alongside them every day. But unlike almost all other emergencies, fires are something we can prepare for. You cannot change the course of a hurricane or stop an earthquake. But you can remove some of the natural and manmade fuels around your home so that when a wildfire threatens, there is less for it to burn. Less fuel equals less intense fire behavior.
Most of the forest where we live is overcrowded and stressed from over 100 years of fire suppression, grazing, and other human activities. The changes in the natural pattern of the forest growth and fire on our landscapes have created hazardous fire potential. Furthermore, many of us love living in Southwest Colorado because of the forests, mountains and canyons. We have chosen to live in homes that are mixed into the woodlands. This choice comes with a responsibility.
We have the responsibility to make our forests healthier and our homes safer. Choosing trees to keep that are well formed and mixed ages and species will add to the forests health by letting each tree you keep get more water, sun and nutrients and reducing the potential for diseases or insects to completely kill a forest of all one species. Keeping younger trees allows them to fill in as older trees die out. Homeowners who have done extensive fuels reduction consistently report that there is more wildlife in their woods following this work.
By staggering the vegetation that you keep around your home, driveway and other important structures, you can slow down a fire and drop it to the ground, giving firefighters a chance to defend the house, or giving your house a chance to survive even if there are not enough available firefighting resources for every home that is threatened.
If you are unsure that wildfire is a risk to you, you aren't sure what to do next, or something else is holding you back, uncross your fingers and call yours truly at 564-4007 today.
Rebecca Samulski is wildfire prevention and education specialist for the Montezuma County Fire Chiefs Association and Montezuma Chapter coordinator for FireWise of Southwest Colorado.