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Homeowners can be proactive in preventing fires, as well as preparing their property to minimize the danger if a wildfire breaks out and spreads. The Colorado State Forest Service has created a defensible space checklist for homeowners. A complete checklist and resources for homeowners can be found at https://csfs.colostate.edu/wildfire-mitigation/wildfire-defensible-space-checklist/
Here are a few recommendations:
• Properly thin and prune trees and shrubs within the defensible space.
• Dispose of slash from tree/shrub thinning.
• Stack firewood uphill from or on the same elevation as any structures, or at least 30 feet away from structures.
• Screen attic, roof, eaves and foundation vents, and periodically check them to ensure that they are in good condition.
• Screen or wall-in stilt foundations and decks; screens should be 1/8-inch or smaller metal mesh (1/16-inch mesh is best).
• Post signs at the end of the driveway with your last name and house number that are noncombustible, reflective and easily visible to emergency responders.
• Make sure that the driveway is wide enough for fire trucks to enter and exit, and that trees and branches are adequately cleared for access by fire and emergency equipment.
South Metro Fire Rescue offers the following tips to help prepare residents for a wildfire:
• Read your workplace and school emergency plans so you know how those organizations will protect your family members in emergencies.
• Ensure family members know how to use gas, electric and water shut-off controls.
• Plan and practice different escape routes from your neighborhood.
• Assemble an emergency supply kit as recommended by the American Red Cross, FEMA or similar organizations.
• Create an evacuation plan for your babysitter or children in case such an order occurs when you aren't home.
• Inventory your home so that insurance claims can occur faster.
South Metro Fire Rescue has responded to more than 22 fire calls since Feb. 23, half of which were vegetation fires throughout the district. SMFR has assisted other agencies with battling fires as well, including the Forest Ridge brush fire March 4, near Kiowa, which burned approximately 375 acres.
With a drier than usual winter and high winds, South Metro public information officer Eric Hurst said it's important to use caution when building any recreational fires, or using any equipment in the yard that could throw a spark or cause intense heat.
“Most of the fires we've responded to have been human caused,” Hurst said. “It's important to exercise caution when lighting any recreational fires and when disposing of cigarette butts. Have a water source on hand when you're burning a fire.”
Hurst also said to call 911 immediately if a fire gets out of control, regardless of how small.
“Call 911 right away, even if you're able to put the fire out. It's better to have us on the way just in case you can't get it under control,” said Hurst.
Currently, there are no fire bans within SMFR's area, according to Hurst. The sheriff's office of each county is responsible for issuing a fire ban, which restricts when and where residents can build fires. In the absence of a fire ban, residents may build recreational fires, but are still obligated to adhere to local laws and safety practices.
South Metro's coverage area includes Parker, Lone Tree, Castle Pines, Greenwood Village, much of Centennial and some other areas of Douglas and Arapahoe counties. As a large district, it also assists many other nearby departments with fighting fires.
Typically the wildfire season in Colorado has ranged from May through September, but according to Hurst, the season in Colorado is “pretty much anytime of the year until we have a meaningful amount of moisture.”
The National Weather Service has issued several Red Flag warnings for the south metro area throughout the past couple of weeks.
“A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior,” according to the National Weather Service website.
Hurst recommends residents who are concerned about their property email firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone from SMFR will come to the residence and do a fire risk assessment, including recommendations on how to safeguard the home.
More information can be found at www.firewise.org
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