Wildfire will find the weakness in your homes defenses, so start minimizing your risks today!
Of course, if your home is in the woods, this can seem like an absolutely daunting prospect, but theres no better time to start than now before the wildfire arrives. Even if you dont live in the woods, wildfire can be devastating, from getting inundated with smoke to embers landing in your eaves or landscaping and igniting your home. There is a great deal that you can do to improve the chances of your home and familys survival when a wildfire comes and a responsibility that you have to your neighbors to reduce the fuels on your property if you do live out in the countryside.
Whether you live in the woods or in town, start inside the home. Know where you will meet your family in case you have to evacuate, for fire or any other reason. Keep an emergency bag and at least 72 hours worth of supplies ready to go. Dont forget supplies for your pets and to consider special needs, such as medications. Make copies of all important papers and legal documents and inventory your belongings complete with photos or video, and keep them in a fire safe location, an actual fire safe or with a trusted out of state friend or family member. FireWise of Southwest Colorado and your Montezuma County Emergency Manager, Doug Parker, both have great resources to help you plan for an evacuation.
Once you have taken care of evacuation preparedness, and you are ready to at least get out with your lives and most important belongings, you can take steps to prepare your home.
A homes roofing material and the quality of the defensible space surrounding a home are the two biggest determinants of a homes ability to survive wildfire. When considering any remodeling or home maintenance, use fire-resistant materials. Use foam or flashing under eaves to ensure embers cannot get into your roof. Consider removing foundation plantings such as juniper bushes or creating 3-5 feet of non-combustible materials next to your home.
You can never eliminate the risk of wildfire destroying the home you rent or own, nor would many of us want to live in the metal bunker that attempting this would entail. However, by becoming more aware of wildfire in your landscape, and working with your family, landlords, neighbors, local fire protection district, and FireWise, you can take your own calculated risks. You may leave your favorite stand of trees, but limb them up 6-10 feet, clear the brush under and around them, and create at least a 10 foot buffer between those trees and the next stand. You can keep your native grasses or lawn, but also keep them mowed or grazed down. Visit Colorado State Forest Service wildfire publications for the homeowner at csfs.colostate.edu to find out more about improving your homes defenses, including 6.302, Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones and 6.303 on Fire-Resistant Landscaping.
For expert advice, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or your fire protection district to put you in touch with the resources to help you take control of the wildfire risks where you live.
Rebecca (Whitehead) Samulski is the coordinator for the Montezuma Chapter of FireWise of Southwest Colorado and can be reached at email@example.com or 882-2388.