COLORADO WILDFIRES, PREPARING YOUR HOME

This summer will likely be considered under drought conditions like in recent years, according to the Summit Daily. Readying your home and surrounding land for wildfire season is imperative to prevent the spread of fire in your neighborhood should a wildfire occur.

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The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control published their 2022 Wildfire Preparedness Plan. “Looking at the historical data of the 20 largest wildfires in Colorado’s history, nine of those (45%) have occurred since 2018, 15 of those (75%) have occurred since 2012, and all 20 (100%) have occurred since 2001. In addition, the three largest wildfires in Colorado’s history all occurred in 2020, exceeding the Hayman fire that had held the top spot since 2002.” Wildfires are becoming more prevalent, and we should all be aware of the potential consequences.

According to the plan, Summit County will reach “above-normal” levels for potential wildfires this month. Fire season previously started later in the year when temperatures rise, but Governor Jared Polis cited climate change among other reasons for the earlier start date to fire season. “Of course, wildland fire has always been a building part of Colorado’s natural ecosystem, but there are several factors that are conspiring to substantially increase risk,” said Polis in a press conference on Friday, April 22. “One is the changing climate: drier, hotter weather throughout the year and less precipitation. Second is increased population of the state of Colorado — especially in the wildland-urban interface. Third is increased utilization in our public lands. Many of these fires, tragically, are caused by human behavior.”

As human behavior is the only aspect we can affect on an individual level, it’s important to know the steps we can take to prevent wildfires from happening and from affecting our homes. “It really means being vigilant, not just when you’re camping in the backcountry, but in your neighborhood or in your open space near your home,” Governor Polis said.

FEMA provides a non-comprehensive list of actions you can take to ready your home for fire season, hopefully preventing a wildfire from burning your home in the event that one occurs nearby. Outside the home, FEMA suggests these steps to be taken:

• Fortify your roof. The likelihood your home will survive a wildfire is based largely on how your home is built and what materials are used. Install or replace your roof with a Class A-rated roof with noncombustible coverings.

• Construct your roof with fire-resistant materials. Install and replace eaves with short overhangs and flat ledges. Wildfires might cause embers to fly and latch onto your roof’s ledges and eaves, resulting in a fire.

• Keep embers out. Wind-blown embers can be extremely dangerous during a fire. Cover exterior attic vents and under-eave vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to keep

embers out. Install a fire block in the gap between the top of framed walls and the foundation of the house to starve the fire of oxygen and prevent it from spreading.

• Install and replace exterior wall coverings. Exterior wall coverings that are noncombustible or fire-resistant and not susceptible to melting are recommended. A minimum fire-resistance rating of one hour for the wall assembly is recommended.

• Create 30 feet of defensible space around your home. Reduce or remove flammable vegetation, use fewer flammable species, and clear all combustibles from your exterior space. In the defensible space, use non-combustible materials such as gravel, brick, or concrete.

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• Regularly clean and remove debris from the roof and gutters. Debris can catch fire from wind-blown embers. Regular maintenance reduces the likelihood of something catching on fire on top of your home.

• Enclose your foundation. Foundations of homes in fire-prone areas should be enclosed. This lowers the chance of wind-blown embers getting underneath your home.

• Plan for access to water. Purchase and install external sprinkler systems with dedicated power sources or a water tank, if no water source is available. Connect garden hoses long enough

to reach any area of the home and fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.

• Protect large windows from radiant heat. Install multi-pane windows, tempered safety glass,

or fireproof shutters.

• Install highly visible street signs and property addresses. Make sure street signs and address numbers are highly visible to help firefighters and other emergency responders quickly find your property.

• Seal gaps around openings in exterior walls and roofs. Utility connections often go through the exterior walls of your home. Seal gaps in exterior walls and roofs with fire-resistant caulk, mortar, or fire-protective expanding foam. Fill large gaps with heat-expanding sealant or fire-protective sheets or pillows.

FEMA suggests these precautions in addition to the list above:

• Review your insurance policy. Taking a few minutes to check your homeowners or mobile home insurance policy and verifying your coverage can help you process a claim in the future and get back on your feet faster after a wildfire.

• Prepare or update a list of your home’s contents. Documenting all of your belongings will give you peace of mind and help with the insurance claims process. Consider documenting your contents visually, either by taking photos of high-value items or walking through your home and videotaping your belongings for reference.

You can protect your home from wildfire with help from the Summit County Chipping Program. Summit County government helps residents and property owners create defensible space by providing free chipping and disposal of branches, logs, and small trees. If you clear woody vegetation from around your home and stack it in a slash pile, we’ll chip it and haul it away at no cost. To find out when to place your disposables near your street for pickup, check the schedule here. For guidelines and more information about the Summit County Chipping Program, read the Chipping Program Fact Sheet.

For information about current fire restrictions in Colorado, check the Colorado County Fire Restrictions Map frequently. Information on fire restrictions and bans can change rapidly.  The most current information can and should be obtained from your local county government or the forest service.

Another handy resource, Ready, Set, Go! - Your Personal Wildfire Action Plan, is part of a national program that the Summit Fire Department has teamed up with to encourage citizen preparation for the possibility of a catastrophic wildfire. The Summit County's Community Wildfire Protection Plan is another great resource if you’d like to learn more about what the county is doing to mitigate fire risk, educate the community, and respond in the event of a wildfire.

Educating ourselves and our community is our best defense against wildfires. Please share this information with fellow residents and enjoy all that beautiful Summit County has to offer this summer!