Wildfire Protection Plan for your Colorado Mountain Home
This blog is titled Wildfire Protection Plan for your Colorado Mountain Home, and will discuss the action steps needed to create a safe space around your home, pet considerations, drones and evacuation planning. This is front and center with the latest wildfire that started on July 5. So, I thought it was a timely post that will have information that will be invaluable to first time home buyers and longtime Breckenridge locals.
A good defense is your best offense when it comes to wildfires and planning ahead. Preventative measures can be taken to make sure your home is as safe as it can be, your essential information is stored safely and also accessible when needed, and that you have a plan for your home, your pets and your family.
Create a Defensible Space
The first page that you should look at is on the Summit County government website that discusses Summit County Forest Health and Wildfire Mitigation issues and provides many links and resources. At the top of the list of resources is a page for details about creating a Defensible Space around your home and property. The bottom line is to remove and minimize natural fuels for wildfires from around your home and detached structures.
I’ve included a wonderful infographic with the basics below. Be sure to check out the chipping program that helps ongoing annual efforts: “If you clear woody vegetation from around your home and stack it in a slash pile, we’ll chip it and haul it away for free..” Anything you can do to help firefighters save your home is going to be well worth the time and efforts. After all, this is your investment, and that’s why we’re writing this article. To help you save your home.
Get Emergency Notifications
I signed up for the emergency notifications and get traffic updates and now, communication regarding wildfires. It was great to get notified about the evacuation notices being lifted, and even became aware of another wildfire that had to be put out on Mt. Baldy. That one was especially troubling, as I had considered it as an alternate route, should Breck be put on full evacuation. We were packed and ready to go, and that would have meant roads would have been at a standstill. Boreas Pass goes up and over to Como, connecting to Highway 285. But, they actually closed the road for a bit while they got the fire under control.
Sign up and get notified about relevant emergencies that will affect you, your home and your family. Make sure you have an external power source to charge phones as you move. Prepare for not being able to plug in for 12-24 hours. I’m looking into a hand crank that can continue to generate energy, versus a power bank that will eventually run out of juice. Having both would be ideal.
Our pets are our family, and that means you need to make a plan for them too. I wasn’t able to embed the post and video like the others on this post, so click here to watch a good preparedness video regarding pets and evacuating them. Bottom line is to get a grab bag together for them, and practice loading them into trailers, cars and travel crates.
Make sure you have someone who knows about your pet, how to access your home in an emergency and where to go and what to do next, if you are unable to return to your home quickly. Your pet will be stressed, but you don’t have to be. You can rest assured that you have a plan and that your pet has a greater chance of survival when it counts.
Flying Drones Over Wildfires is Illegal
We are all gawkers when it comes to accidents, so it’s no surprise that people want to pull over, watch the fire, and take pictures. Some of us even have drones now, and those that flew them near the fire hindered the airborne support as ground crews wouldn’t give the green light to the helicopters and planes until all potential hazards were removed from the airspace. Please spread the word and get drone operators used to the fact that their hovering cameras are not allowed during emergencies and could cost lives and money if used inappropriately.
I will admit that I didn’t have this entire checklist ticked off when the #peak2fire was underway. I did have a fireproof safe with essentials should I have not been home to respond and pack. We are used to traveling, so had backpacks and clothes ready, and when pressed to think about, there wasn’t much we couldn’t leave behind. We had family memorabilia in containers and it would have been easy for us to gather items like computers, personal documents and nostalgia and hit the road.
We were actually deciding whether to take bikes and stuff. I saw posts from friends loading their prized fishing rods and other stuff that has sentimental value. Now, think about if you were to get that emergency text in the middle of the night. It’s 3 AM and you have 20 minutes. What would you take? What would you leave behind? Is your pet bag ready?
I’ve included a link to a comprehensive checklist, so CLICK HERE to see the full list.
When You Return
Going home is all I would think about should we be evacuated from our house. But, I have learned that there would be a few things you would need to do once you are given the go ahead to return. Please think about the following when allowed back to your property.
- Food safety – Check the food in the fridge. You may have to throw away some items if you’re unsure if they’re any good. Don’t risk it and just toss it. A neat trick for knowing if your freezer shut off is to place a coin on a cup. Click here to learn about that trick. Most jarred items will still be safe, and even canned goods should be ok. That is, unless they were exposed to high heat from a fire.
- Private wells – Have them professionally checked out before using again.
- Wildlife – Please do not leave pet food or water outside. Report any distressed or hurt wildlife to the authorities.
- Garbage – Please pick up trash and safely contain with lids and other sealed containers to discourage wildlife from getting into it.
- Septic Systems – Flame retardants and other chemicals may have been used, so we recommend a professional check for any damages.
- Odors – Central heating systems may need air filters changed and to be checked by a professional HVAC person. Place odor absorbers and dishes of vanilla, vinegar and activated charcoal to help.
- Air Quality – Pay attention to the newscasts and notifications as personnel will give proper respiratory warnings. This is important for those that are sensitive and susceptible to breathing difficulties.
- Power – Electricity may or may not available, so make sure you have a way to cook food. You may need to transport your own water until your water source is clear and flowing too.
While this post is a good list of resources, there are many more out there, and is just the start of your wildfire preparedness. It sure was scary to see all the smoke and everyone started thinking really hard about what to do next. Luckily, we have a great community full of professionals, and with the help of social media, locals were connected and sharing photos, links to official pages and communicators and we all had the best and most recent information we could get.
This was a wake up call for all of us. We live in a beautiful forest mountain environment and forest fires are to be expected. It’s not a matter of if they will happen again, but when they will happen again. Next time, I hope we’re all a little bit more prepared. Please contact us with any questions about information presented in this article. Please share!