The Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) has a burning desire to come to your house before there is a wildfire. Onsite assessments can identify many simple measures that increase a home’s chances of being spared in the event of a wildfire. Scheduling a CRFPD visit was one of the major recommendations emphasized at CRFPD’s meeting on wildfire preparedness on May 19. There’s so much useful information to share that The Sopris Sun will publish one CRFPD fire safety tip each week during the summer, in a section called Fire Wall.
“We’ll come, we’ll walk through your home with you, we’ll help you,” said Fire Chief Rob Goodwin. “Please avail yourselves of us.” CRFPD assessments “need to happen early,” Chief Goodwin emphasized. They may point out gutters that need to be cleared and where vegetation next to the house needs to be removed. Cutting tree branches that hang over the driveway are of particular concern to firefighters if they come to put out a fire.
During the nearly 90-minute presentation, firefighters gave a comprehensive explanation of its “Ready Set Go” recommendations and urged the community to start preparing now. The entire presentation was recorded in Spanish and English and is available online (www.carbondalefire@Facebook.com). Printed Wildland Fire Action Guide checklists are also available for pick-up at CRFPD’s station in Carbondale (300 Meadow Drive).
“We can’t predict when the fire is coming or where,” said Pablo Herr, assistant fire marshal and public fire educator. Every household needs its own plan, he said. “It’s as simple as get ready, get set, and when it’s time to go, you gotta go.”
Knowing how to get out of your neighborhood and where you are going to go are part of the plan. “You need to have at least two routes,” said Karl Oliver. “We recommend you drive those routes before the fire comes, because it’s going to be so smoky you need to know those routes well.”
If evacuation is called for, Oliver urged evacuees to stay calm when driving away, because motor vehicle accidents make matters worse. Having a plan includes “building a go kit” that contains everything you should take with you and that can be grabbed quickly. Oliver said he keeps his go kit, which includes emergency phone numbers, by his front door. The go kit can be kept in a plastic container. A fireproof safe for valuables can be left in the basement, he said.
Additionally, Public Information Officer Jenny Cutright listed “the six Ps” to take: people and pets, including horses; papers and important documents; pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia; prescriptions, vitamins and eyeglasses; personal computers or hard drives; plastic — meaning credit cards, as well as cash.
The presentation posted other websites to keep handy:
People were further advised to register unique characteristics of their property (at that might aid firefighters when they arrive.
If you must evacuate, Oliver recommended closing all doors and windows, but leaving a door or the garage unlocked so that firefighters have easier access. Putting out a ladder and garden hoses also helps firefighters.
Herr recommended that homeowners associations create phone trees to call residents and knock on neighbors’ doors when evacuation is a possibility. Sheltering in place was not advised, unless a home has a basement, or is on its own well and can flood irrigate property around the home.
Only houses on wells or ditch water however, should turn on their irrigation systems, said Herr. Chief Goodwin’s message to residents who are on subdivision water systems was direct. When it comes to whether to leave them on: “Please don’t.”
“Try not to use water that the fire department needs,” added Herr.
People who attended the session raised questions of their own. A woman who lost her house in the Marshall suburban firestorm near Boulder recalled the number of cars in garages whose gas tanks blew up. Moving cars away from a home is a good idea, said Chief Goodwin, but only if you have time to do so. Shutting off power mains can be done, but, once again, only if there’s time. “Don’t go looking for the shut offs before you leave,” he said. “Just go.”
Since cell phone service can’t be relied on in emergencies, Herr said it is important to have situational awareness. “Understand when it is dangerous out,” he said. “When the wind is blowing like heck, you see what’s happening in the sky, you smell smoke, you don’t need to wait for an alert.”
“Be your own best emergency alert,” said Chief Goodwin. “Trust your gut. It won’t fail you.”