Fire danger remains in winter: Cooler weather helps, drier weather doesn't

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After a summer of major fires and another winter that's shaping up so far to be drier and warmer than usual, a lot of people are wondering what they can do now to mitigate the chances of a wildfire next summer.

One thing they can do is call their local fire department and ask for a fuels mitigation inspection on their property.

“We have limited funds,” said Jim Lee, firefighter, emergency medical technician and station manager at Divide Volunteer Fire Department's Shoemaker Station. “But we would be happy to come out to your property and help you figure out the best way to make your property more defensible during a wildfire.”

Candy Shoemaker of Cripple Creek Emergency Medical Response said Cripple Creek Fire and Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District also offer property inspections.

Creating defensible space around a home can save that home during a wildfire when firefighters look at properties to decide which homes can be saved.

“We call it triage,” Lee said. “It's hard but we have to do it to use our limited resources wisely.”

Lee added that winter is a good time of year to prepare for next summer by cleaning up slash around the property.

If the county does get some snow, that would be a good time to do some permitted burning, Lee said.

“Make sure you get a permit from the sheriff's office,” he said. “And make sure you call the sheriff's office before you burn. Even if they've issued you a permit, that doesn't mean every day will be a good day to burn. Calling before you start notifies the sheriff's office about the smoke people will be sure to call in and the office can tell you if that day is a safe day to burn.”

“Be careful,” said Divide fire medical Capt. Mike McFain. “Fire danger isn't as high in winter because of the cold but it's really dry out there.”

Winter is also a good time to put emergency supplies in order, including the family's evacuation or go bag, which is filled with a 72-hour supply of items needed if the family has to evacuate during an emergency. This should include important paperwork, spending cash, medications, clothing, easy to carry food items. For more information and a checklist, visit www.readycolorado.com.

“For general information about defensible space go to Firewise.org,” McFain said. “It's a national website and doesn't narrow things down to the local level but it's a good place to start.”

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