Joe Burgett, Assistant Fire Chief, gave a very important presentation on Wildfire Evacuation during our last ECHPOA meeting held on March 6, 2013. He shared his knowledge and experiences with us and we walked away with valuable information and handouts! A huge thank you to him for giving up his time to be with us!
I did take notes during Joe’s presentation and will do my best to summarize what I learned for those of you who were unable to attend.
In 2009 the ECHPOA community was able to obtain a 5/10 Insurance Services Office (ISO) classification. ISO reviews the fire suppression capabilities of a community and assigns a classification number from 1 to 10. The lower the number the more we can save on our property insurance premiums. The 5 refers to properties within 5 road miles of a fire station. The 10 refers to properties within 1000 feet of a fire hydrant.
To learn more about ISO classifications, please refer to the Insurance Services Office handout.
It is not a question of IF, but WHEN a wildland fire will occur. The Ready, Set, Go program works with the Firewise Community program so that individuals can be better prepared for a wildland fire. There are studies that have shown as many as 80 percent of the homes lost to wildland fires could have been saved if their owners had only followed a few simple fire-safe practices. In addition, wildland fire related deaths occur because people wait too long to leave their homes.
Make your home a house that firefighters can defend. Provide firefighters with 30 feet of defensible space out from your home so as to slow or halt the spread of a wildfire to the structure. Remove dead vegetation and pine needles, trim tree canopies 10 feet from roof, chimney and other trees. Firewood should be stacked at least 30 feet from your home.
A “hardened home” is a home built with fire resistant construction materials such as metal roofs and Trex decking. Because of time and resource restrictions, firefighters will be forced to prioritize homes as to which homes to save first. They will try and determine as quickly as possible as to which individuals have put an effort into saving their home and keeping fire fighters safe.
Help the fire fighters find your home. The Fire Department no longer uses fire numbers; they now have a new mapping system and use house address numbers instead. Make sure your house address numbers are clearly visible from the road and made of fire resistant materials. Address number pole signs can be purchased from Moore Lumber. These signs look similar to the mile markers and home owners will then attach their own numbers. If you pull a burn permit, you will be required to put these new signs on your property. Design your driveway to allow emergency vehicles to reach your house with a suitable turnaround area. Fire trucks need a clearance of a 15×15 foot box to go up a driveway. Trim overhanging trees accordingly.
Be prepared to leave quickly. Wear long sleeves and long pants made from natural fibers such as cotton, work boots, goggles, and bandana that can be used as a mask. Pre-pack an emergency supply kit containing a flashlight, battery powered radio, spare batteries, contact numbers, 3 day supply of drinking water (1 gallon per person per day), 3 day supply of non-perishable food for family members and pets.
Help keep fire fighters safe. Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked (fire fighters may have to take a quick refuge!), shut off gas, turn off pilot lights and propane tanks, leave lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoke conditions, leave garden hoses out for fire fighters to find that are long enough to reach any area of your home. Do not leave water running, it can reduce critical water pressure. Leave a note in an envelope addressed to the Fire Department on your door with important information to help keep fire fighters safe about your property such as location of explosive materials.
Leave early, giving your family the best chance of surviving a wildland fire. This will also help to prevent congestion on the roads, allowing fire fighters to move more freely and do their jobs in a safer environment. Fire fighters can concentrate on protecting property instead of evacuations.
To learn more about property and home fire threat preparedness, please refer to the Ready, Set, Go handout.
Park County, which included Elk Creek Highlands and Harris Park, evacuation plan has 3 levels. Go early, don’t wait!
Level 1 – Residents are notified with a reverse 911 call that there is an incident in the area. This level is voluntary and evacuation roads will remain open. This level is for those who need additional time to evacuate or have health conditions. Younger people should help older people to get out and can come back in to move animals.
Level 2 – Residents are notified that there is a full evacuation and are asked to leave. This level is mandatory and entry into the area is denied. Officials can not make the adults leave; however, they can take the children to safety.
Level 3 – Residents are notified that there is an imminent danger and should have left 1 hour ago. The exit roads will be a mess.
To learn more about evacuation levels, please refer to the Wildfire Evacuation handout.
Everyone in Park County should sign up for the new Code Red Emergency Notification System. This does not replace the reverse 911 system, it is an additional notification from Park County Dispatch. You will get notification for any emergency in the Bailey area; amber alerts, tornadoes, etc. It is a national system and good for travel and weather alerts. Code Red does not test county wide because of the cost, 1 text message to all residences is much more expensive than 1 test text to 1 residence. Call 719-836-4121, option 5 for a non emergency line to test their reverse 911 information. A dispatcher will walk you through their test. You can enter both land line and cell phone numbers.
To learn more about how to sign up for the new Code Red Emergency Notification System, please refer to the Code Red handout.
Number one priority is your lives and documentation to be able to rebuild. It is very important to be prepared to leave, know where documentation is stored, and plan where you are going and several different evacuation routes you can take. There is an emergency exit out of Harris Park, off of Forest Drive, on the south side of the big lake. If the gate is locked and not open, you may cut the chain, or run it down if you have to. This is a “goat trail” on private property in which the owner has agreed to let us use it in case of an emergency. Take a 4 wheel drive vehicle; it will beat up the smaller Subaru’s. Do NOT take boats, RV’s, corvettes as they WILL get stuck and everyone behind you will fail to escape with you. This trail will lead you out by Pine Junction.
We have decomposed granite in our area. When we do get snow or rain it goes directly into the ground, rolls away, and fills our reservoirs. Therefore, our vegetation will dry out during warmer weather. Federal and county burn bans are different. While Park County may be in a burn ban, the Federal Forest Service can allow campfires in the campgrounds. Park County burn bans have changed, there is no longer 3 phases we now only have 1.
Slash burning on private property is allowed as long as there is 2 inches of snow on the ground. Sometimes there will be no snow on the southern faced slopes, while your neighbors across from you on the northern faced slopes do have the 2 inches and can burn. Slash burns are restricted to 3x3x3 feet. Recreational campfires are restricted to 2x2x2 feet. Remember all outside burning requires a Burn Permit that can be obtained from the Platte Canyon Fire Protection District office.
Warning about changes being made in our property insurance. The fire that destroyed the sub-division in Colorado Springs is forcing rule changes. Insurance companies will be requiring clear cut 100 feet around homes or will cancel insurance coverage. Fire Department still stands by 30 feet out and separating tree crowns. It was suggested to write your congressman.
Cell phone coverage is a problem in our area. This is because a cell tower requires ridge top and 360 degree view. Something to think about during a wildland fire evacuation.
Our pond has not been certified as a fire pond. There is one in Harris Park that has been. This would require a 6 inch diameter pipe to be placed 4 to 6 feet below the ice level so that the water could be used during a fire. This is considered a Dry Hydrant versus a Rural Fire Hydrant.
If you have questions for the Platte Canyon Fire Department call the non emergency number at 303-838-5853 or visit their website at www.plattecanyonfire.com.