How to get information fast when a wildfire breaks out
Ahead of what is expected to be a busy fire season, it’s best to be prepared
The latest state drought map has bad news for the Eagle County and the rest of the Western Slope. That means it’s a good year to tap into wildfire information resources.
A reader recently asked for information about the best places to find that kind of information. The good news is there’s plenty of easy-to-get information available. Other information is available for those who want to take a deeper dive into energy release components and other elements of wildland observation.
According to the fire officials reached for this story, by far the easiest way to tap into quick information is through Eagle County’s emergency notification systems. Social media is also a quick way to get information that’s virtually up to the minute.
Eagle County Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Eric Lovgren said that teams fighting the 2018 Lake Christine fire near Basalt and the 2020 Grizzly Creek fire in Glenwood Canyon established Facebook and Twitter feeds for those fires before they’d even arrived on scene.
Info in real time
Lovgren noted that at a Wednesday disaster simulation at the Eagle County Regional Airport, public information was up and running at almost the same time a command center was established.
From there, “information goes out in real time through social media,” Lovgren said. “It’s often easier for a (public information officer) to update to a social media platform through a phone.”
Paul Cada, the wildland fire specialist with the Vail Fire Department, said there are different levels of wildfire. Small fires may not get a lot of public attention, Cada said. A relatively new site called Wildfires Near Me requires user registration, but includes those smaller fires. Cada said the site will report any time a crew is dispatched within 15 miles of a user’s address. The site searches the federal dispatch system, and sends notifications.
Cada also recommended Eagle County’s alert system, and the federal Inciweb system for big incidents. But the Inciweb system can take a day or two to have full reports, Cada said.
Tracy LeClair, the community risk manager and public information officer for the Eagle River Fire Protection District, said she keeps a close eye on information ranging from fuel moisture to weather notifications, and sends email notifications to anyone in the district who requests that information.
Fire danger can vary
Visitors often look at the local fire danger signs, but fire danger can vary widely from one part of the county to another.There’s a new sign near Red Cliff this year in addition to those scattered through the rest of the county.
And, LeClair noted, she often recommends that people look to the Vail Daily for fire danger information.
Beyond just information, Lovgren said there have been a lot of wildfire mitigation programs in the county in recent months, ranging from the Roaring Fork Valley to East Vail. Some of those fires help clear fast-burning materials. Others clear that material and help create better habitat for wildlife.
“There’s been more (prescribed burns) in Eagle County in this year than in the past 10,” Lovgren said.
Beyond clearing out areas before they’re hit by wildfire, Lovgren said prescribed burns allow fire crews and others to get together and coordinate operations and work on their skills and qualifications.
Add community preparedness to real-world experience for firefighters and we can get closer to what Lovgren called the “lofty goal” of creating a fire-adapted community.
For simple, up-to-date information, follow the social media pages of local fire districts, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service.