Wildfire exercise a success
VAIL — Town of Vail evacuation plans and interagency operations were tested Aug. 9 during a multi-agency training exercise that included real-time emergency response and coordination. The Cougar Ridge exercise, staged from 10 to 11:45 a.m., simulated a wildland fire that was threatening homes and infrastructure in the Matterhorn and Highland Meadows neighborhoods on the south side of Interstate 70.
In all, 35 responders from Vail Fire Department, Vail Police Department, Vail Public Safety Communications Center, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Eagle River Fire Protection District, U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Patrol participated in the drill. The exercise included a door-to-door canvass of more than 50 homes to simulate a mandatory evacuation. About 45 voluntary evacuees checked in at an evacuation center, which was staged at Donovan Park during the annual community picnic.
Exercise director and wildland program administrator for Vail Fire Paul Cada, says the response from the neighborhood was outstanding. Cada added an assessment of the exercise will be prepared in a report that will be used to make recommendations for additional modifications to emergency response plans.
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger was also appreciative of the opportunity to simulate Vail’s response to a wildfire scenario.
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“Training and exercising the interactions between fire and police are critical to execution during a real event,” Henninger said. “We have seen significant progress in our skill over the past few years of exercises and we appreciate the participation by the community in Tuesday’s exercise.”
Vail residents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the town’s evacuation plans at vailgov.com/evac. In the event of a real evacuation, neighborhoods will be alerted by uniformed law enforcement officers during a door-to-door canvass of the area or by a public address system from their vehicles. Households will also be notified via the Everbridge emergency notification system activated by the Vail Public Safety Communications Center and to subscribers of Eagle County Alert at ecalert.org. Other community wide notifications include the @VailPolice Twitter and Facebook account, the www.vailgov.com website, cable Channel 10 and Vail’s emergency hotline, 970-479-2226.