Tuesday, July 3, 2012
June 29, 2012: North Routt residents pack wildfire meeting Thursday
June 28, 2012: Routt County residents urged to sign up for Code Red alerts
On Thursday, I attended a wildfire preparedness and evacuation meeting in Clark sponsored by the North Routt Fire Protection District. The program provided great hands-on information about the threat of fire and what homeowners can do to be more prepared. Experts from the North Routt Fire Protection District, Routt County and the state spoke of the inevitability of a catastrophic fire. They draw from experiences gained through past events, including the Hinman Park Fire in 2002 and from recent fires we have been seeing throughout the state.
I walked away with a sense of urgency but secure in the fact that the powers that be are preparing and that we have willing volunteers in our community to respond to such a horrific event while the rest of us flee. Heightening safety awareness, promoting discussion and disseminating this valuable information is part of the program, and I applaud our local volunteers and fire district for getting the information out there and being proactive in their approach.
We have watched the incredible footage from the High Park, North Fork and Waldo Canyon fires. One clip that comes to mind is the evacuation of a family from the North Fork Fire. Video was rolling as several vehicles were driven through and out of the inferno to safety while trees and brush were being consumed all around. This family lived to talk about their ordeal while others, unfortunately, did not.
We were told that when the Code Red phone calls come, the best-case scenario would be that everyone within the evacuation zone leave. During the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, many residents had less than an hour to respond to the mandatory evacuation order. In all the confusion that an event of this magnitude brings and our instinct to run, I cannot help but wonder if our way out will be obstructed.
As a result of the beetle epidemic, what remain today are standing dead trees that are susceptible to time, moisture, fire and wind. Many areas along our county road right-of-ways still are, after years, lined with these dead trees, which may burn and eventually fall, possibly blocking escape routes that are, in some instances, the only way out.
Since the beetle outbreak some years ago, many Routt County landowners and managers have worked hard to mitigate its effects by removing dead or diseased trees in an effort to gain valuable defensible space. I would suggest that the Routt County Road and Bridge Department also address this liability by being a good neighbor and removing those hazard trees. Such action potentially could save lives when the inevitable occurs.