Cada: Getting wildfire ready
During May, communities across the West take a pause and engage in preparations for the upcoming wildfire season in recognition of Wildfire Awareness Month.
Wildfires in Colorado and throughout the Western U.S. continue to be larger, burn longer and are harder to control. A combination of factors, including heavy accumulations of fuel, dryer and warmer weather, and more human activities in nature, have primed our forests, shrublands and communities to burn. It is incumbent upon everyone — governments, businesses and citizens — to prepare for wildfire.
For the next five weeks, the town of Vail and Vail Fire are embarking on a community preparedness campaign to help everyone become “wildfire ready.” We challenge all community members to take five simple actions that will make a huge impact during a wildfire event.
These five actions are:
- Register or confirm your registration for EC Alerts
- Provide critical information to the fdire Department through Community Connect
- Create a family or business evacuation plan
- Schedule a site visit with wildland staff
- Do some spring cleaning on your landscaping.
EC Alerts is Eagle County’s emergency notification system which will be utilized to alert you of important emergency notifications. Your EC Alert account can be customized to send updates through a variety of different methods including calls, text, email and application notifications. Alerts can also be set up for areas around your home, your place of work or your child’s school. To sign up for EC Alerts, go to ECAlert.org.
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Community Connect is a powerful tool for citizens and business to provide critical information to the Fire Department in a safe and secure format. Do you have a pet at home or a family member that needs help getting out the house? Do you have a property manager who will respond to your home if the fire alarm goes off?
These and many other helpful items can be sent directly to the responding fire engine during an emergency and all through the safe and secure Community Connect program. A free Community Connect account can be set up at CommunityConnect.io/info/co-vail.
Do you know what you would take and where you would go if you were told to evacuate now? What if you were at work or on a trip when your home is evacuated? During an emergency, when evacuations are necessary, emergency responders rely on prepared citizens to evacuate their home safely and quickly. Responders work hard to get everyone back home as quickly as possible, but during wildfire events evacuations can last days or even weeks. A simple starting point for an evacuation plan is identifying the six Ps to take with you:
- People and pets
- Papers, phone numbers and important documents
- Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
- Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
- Personal computers (information on hard drive and removable memory)
- Plastic (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash.
Having a quick plan to cover your six P’s will prepare you for a quick evacuation. Remember that wildfire is more likely during red-flag warning days, so before you leave the house on those days, ask yourself if you are ready. You can view the town of Vail evacuation information at VailGov.com/evac.
Did you know that beginning in 2017, every property in Vail has received a complimentary curbside wildfire hazard evaluation? Results of these evaluations can be found at VailWildFire.com using the property specific code given to you when your home was evaluated.
Don’t have a code? Don’t worry, give us a call at 970-477-3475 and we will help you out. For these evaluations, we look at the building itself and the landscaping that surrounds it to identify potential risks from wildfire. These evaluations are a good starting point when looking for ideas on ways to make your home safer.
We encourage all residents to schedule some time with a Vail wildfire expert to discuss your evaluation and recommendations on building your home’s wildfire defenses. To reach a wildfire expert, call 970-477-3475 or use the contact us button at VailWildFire.com.
Snowplow run over your lilac? Did ice break some branches in your favorite spruce? Aspen leaves in the gutter? Winter can be harsh on your landscaping. May is a great time to get out in the yard and do some spring cleaning.
Yards that are neat and tidy have less risks from wildfire. While your whole yard is vulnerable to embers from a nearby wildfire, the first five feet from the foundation matter the most. Spend some time cleaning leaves and dead plant material from around the foundation. Replace wood chip mulch with non-combustible mulch such as pea gravel or cobble.
Leaves in the gutter? Get the ladder out and clean the gutters. Vail Fire will be beginning its curbside chipping program Memorial Day Weekend to lend a hand in getting rid of branches and small trees. Free curbside chipping will be available through mid-October to support our community. For more information on the Community Chipping Program, visit VailGov.com/wildfire.
Through simple actions, we can be wildfire ready.
Paul Cada is the wildland program manager for Vail Fire and Emergency Services. Contact him at email@example.com or 970-477-3475.