Vail evacuation plan resurfaces in light of Front Range fires
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – The wildfires in Jefferson County last week has brought the subject of evacuation back into the local spotlight.
With below average precipitation throughout the winter and early spring, emergency responders are thinking about the local implications of a below average snowpack and an unusually, and in some places record-breaking, dry March.
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger told the Vail Town Council Tuesday night that the recent fires on the Front Range present a good opportunity to review Vail’s own evacuation plan, adding that information Henninger has gotten from Jefferson County emergency response teams is that the people who were killed in the fires there last week were told to leave their homes and chose not to.
“If you don’t leave until government tells you to leave, we’re in deep trouble,” Henninger said. “People should feel comfortable to leave without being told to leave. … People still need to make good decisions on their own.”
The town of Vail’s evacuation plan isn’t specifically a wildland fire plan. Henninger said other dangers such as hazardous materials spills along Interstate 70 or flooding, for example, could also cause the need for an evacuation.
While the town of Vail uses a reverse 911 call system to notify residents, Henninger said only about 40 percent of residents have hard phone lines at home. Because of that, he encourages town residents to sign up for ecalert.org, the county’s emergency alert system that sends out emails and text message alerts during emergencies.
Henninger said the town plans to do more public service announcements about EC Alert and the evacuation plan.
The plan is to move people out of the neighborhoods and to the transportation center, which Henninger calls a “safe zone.”
“Then from there we would make decisions about whether we need to move them to a shelter or some other place,” he said.
The plan for those evacuating in their cars – about 80 percent of the people – is to direct them to the Frontage Roads and Interstate 70 on-ramps, Henninger said.
“We could get about 2,000 people on (per hour) at each of the on-ramps,” he said.
Henninger told the council he could organize a test evacuation should the council want such an exercise. He said the town would be working with its communications department to spread information about the plan to the public.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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