There's nothing like a blaze ignited just a couple of miles from a densely populated subdivision to spark people's attention on the subject of wildland fire mitigation.
And Eric Lovgren, Eagle County Wildfire Mitigation Manager, is the go-to guy on the topic.
Last week, Lovgren announced a series of "Ready-Set-Go" workshops planned around the county during the next two weeks. Each event will give homeowners a chance to meet with local fire and law enforcement agencies; representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest and the Colorado State Forest Service; and insurance industry representatives to discuss fire mitigation and defensible space, Firewise construction, evacuation planning, wildfire response, insurance claims and more. The session in Gypsum is planned Monday, July 9, and the session in Eagle is slated Wednesday, July 11.
"We are expecting robust turnout, especially in Eagle, given the fire there last week," said Lovgren.
Similar events in Summit and Grand Counties have been very well attended, with more than 200 people turning up for the meeting in Grand Lake last week. In northern Eagle County, the Rock Creek Volunteer Fire Department hosted a pancake breakfast and information center on Sunday, drawing 50 attendees.
Lovgren said Eagle County interest in wildfire mitigation started to peak early, when an apartment complex in Avon caught fire over the Memorial Day weekend. "From that point on, the phone has been ringing off the hook. We have been meeting with apartment complex residents, homeowners associations, metro districts and more," said Lovgren.
Lovgren noted he has a pragmatic message for people who attend his workshops. "Fortune favors the prepared," he said, quoting Louis Pasteur's famed battle quote.
"This is a battle," said Lovgren. "We officially went past 2002 in terms of the drought severity and moisture content over the weekend."
Lovgren noted that last week's fire in Eby Creek was a great example of what can happen if emergency crews and community resources quickly converge to fight a fire.
"It was called in early by me and by every other homeowner who could see it," said Lovgren.
Established mutual aid agreements resulted in local fire departments sending out manpower quickly and the Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site helicopters were quickly on the scene to provide water drops from the air. As a result, the fire was knocked down in the first 24 hours, before it could spread to nearby homes.
While he is encouraged by a great real-world example with the Eby Creek fire, Lovgren still sees lots of potential for catastrophe this summer.
"The scary thing to think about is we haven't seen a fire in the beetle kill area yet. That could be coming, too," he said.
Although rain is in the forecast as soon as next week, Lovgren said that could be a mixed blessing. "Scattered thunderstorms means rain in some areas and lightning in others. Right now it seems like every time lighting hits the ground, fire results."
Lovgren noted homeowners who undertake recommended wildfire mitigation action detailed in the "Ready-Set-Go" program give themselves the chance for a more fortunate outcome in the event of a wildfire.
"There's only so much emergency crews and fire crews can do," said Lovgren. "We can't do it all. Homeowners have their own responsibilities to protect their property. That's a hard message, but that's the truth of it. We can give you information, but we can't do it all for you."
When: Monday, July 9
Time: 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Gypsum Fire Station
511 Second Street
Details: This is a free community event and refreshments will be provided. All are welcome to attend and RSVPs are greatly appreciated to Chief Dave Vroman, firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 524-7101.
When: Wednesday, July 11
Time: 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Brush Creek Pavilion at
Details: Free community event.
All are welcome.
• Ready - Preparing for the Fire Threat: Be Ready, Be Firewise. Take personal responsibility and prepare long before the threat of a wildfire so your home is ready in case of a fire. 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 residents residing within the home are on the same page, plan escape routes. For more information about how to be Ready for wildland fires, go to Firewise.org
• Set - Situational Awareness 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.
• Go - Act early! Following your action plan not only makes you prepared, but helps firefighters best respond to a wildland fire, which strengthens both yours and their safety.