Residents part of wildfire solution: Fire season year round in Tri-Lakes area

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Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Fire Marshal John Vincent said wildfire season is a year-round problem for Tri-Lakes residents. To help local property owners become part of the wildfire solution instead of part of the problem, Vincent has created “Ready, Set, Go: Your Personal Wildfire Action Plan,” a pamphlet that will be available at the district office and on the website, www.tri-lakesfire.com.

The new pamphlet starts out with the reason for its existence. It states: “During a major wildfire, there simply will not be enough fire engines or firefighters to defend every home, so residents must become part of the solution.”

It explains that people whose homes are within a mile of a natural area live in what firefighters call the Wildland Urban Interface and “The Ember Zone” where wind-driven embers from a wildfire can ignite their homes.

“The recent Waldo Canyon Fire resulted in entire neighborhoods destroyed by fires started by embers, not by the wildfire itself,” the pamphlet states.

It also says that people often build homes without understanding how their vulnerability to wildfires is affected by their choices of construction and landscaping materials.

“It's not a question of if, but when the next wildfire will occur in the Tri-Lakes area,” the pamphlet states. “That's why the most important person protecting your life and property is you. With advance planning and preparation, you can dramatically increase your safety and the survivability of your property.”

After the introduction, the pamphlet explains concepts such as creating “defensible space” and a “hardened home,” a home that could survive a wildfire.

The most vulnerable part of the construction is the roof, especially roof valleys, rain gutters and the open ends of barrel tiles. Open eaves and vents, windows and doors and balconies and decks are also places where embers can start fires. Suggestions for mitigating these dangers are included

El Paso County building codes do not require residential fire sprinkler systems but installing such systems during construction is something Vincent has been advocating for more than a year. Such a system could extinguish or contain an ember-caused fire and keep residents safer from fires that ignite inside the home from other causes, he states in the pamphlet.

Another thing he is seriously advocating is making sure house numbers are clearly visible from the street. As he has said previously, finding a house on fire is relatively easy; just follow the smoke, but finding a home where the homeowner is having a heart attack isn't so easy. About 80 percent of calls to fire departments are medical rather than fire related.

The final part of the pamphlet covers evacuations, complete with checklists, on when to go, where to go and what to take along. It's always best to be ready to go before it becomes necessary.

“By leaving early, you give your family the best chance of surviving a wildfire,” the pamphlet states. “You also help firefighters by keeping roads clear of congestion, enabling them to move freely and do their job.”

The pamphlet also points out that wildfire mitigation work can sometimes result in tax credits. For information on all kinds of tax credits, visit www.taxcolorado.com.

For more information on wildfire mitigation, call the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District headquarters at 719-484-0911.