Wildland crew on duty in mid-valley for summertime | VailDaily.com

Wildland crew on duty in mid-valley for summertime

Members of the Eagle River Fire Protection District Seasonal Wildland Team are, from left to right: Keith Dudley, Jeff Zechman, Cade Bertrand, Blake Kerrigan, Travis Holly and Dan Hilborn.

AVON — The Eagle River Fire Protection District for the second year in a row has a team of wildland-dedicated firefighters to serve the district through the summer season. The crews will spend the next couple of weeks training in preparation for what could turn out to be an active wildfire season.

Last summer, a pilot program for the seasonal wildland team concept was conducted in partnership with the town of Avon and was determined to have provided a number of benefits. In addition to strengthening the fire district’s response and suppression capabilities, the crews also focused on improving community planning and reducing the risk of wildfire. Crew members made personal contact with residents in multiple neighborhoods, explaining prevention and mitigation options and conducting property assessments at the request of homeowners.

Expanding Outreach

“The town of Avon was a critical partner in getting the pilot program off the ground last year,” district chief Karl Bauer said. “The community response to the program was very positive, and this year we expect to build on that foundation and expand our outreach even further.”

Six firefighters will make up two three-person crews focused on preventing and/or reducing the threat of wildfire in communities served by the district, which covers the portion of Eagle County between the top of Tennessee Pass and Wolcott. Much of the land in those communities is located in what’s known as the wildland urban interface, the area where private and public lands meet. Throughout the summer, crews will be in the field, updating pre-attack plans as well as mapping and developing evacuation routes and designated safe zones for each neighborhood in the district. Residents can expect to be contacted by district crews, who will be going door-to-door, talking to homeowners about how to minimize the risk of loss of life and/or property through prevention and mitigation efforts.

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Fuels Reduction Projects

Crew members will be available throughout the summer to speak to local homeowner/property owner associations and other groups. In coordination with Eagle County Wildfire Mitigation Manager Eric Lovgren, crews will conduct fuels reduction projects. Property assessments will also be completed as part of a larger community outreach program available to individuals, property managers, businesses and associations.

“This is just one way we can help homeowners reduce the risk of wildfire,” said district wildfire mitigation specialist Jodi Pratt, who is leading the Seasonal Wildland Team efforts. “We conduct a comprehensive on-site assessment of your property and provide you with a customized report detailing actions you should take to ensure that you are fully prepared and have adequate defensible space.”

For more information, call Pratt at 970-471-2796 or email jpratt@eagleriverfire.org.

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