Fire extinguishers

Rotary clubs, fire departments hold education events to prepare for wildfire

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/4/21

It’s imperative that area residents learn what it takes to prepare for wildfire — from how to evacuate to preparing homes and properties in case of a catastrophe. To that end, area Rotary clubs …

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Fire extinguishers

Rotary clubs, fire departments hold education events to prepare for wildfire

Posted

It’s imperative that area residents learn what it takes to prepare for wildfire — from how to evacuate to preparing homes and properties in case of a catastrophe.

To that end, area Rotary clubs and fire departments hosted Wildfire Preparedness Day on May 1 to invite the public to learn more about where to start and get help. Events at both Elk Creek and Evergreen fire departments were filled with residents learning more about signing up for the CodeRED emergency notification system, becoming community ambassadors to encourage neighbors to collaborate on wildfire mitigation, creating defensible space around homes, and the fire departments’ wood chipping and wood-cutting programs, known as the fuels modules.

The tables in the fire departments’ parking lots were loaded with people looking for information — and there were plenty of volunteers and fire personnel to provide it.

The Evergreen, Mountain Foothills and Conifer Rotary clubs have been working on this grassroots effort to educate the public for about three years — and they have created Rotary Wildfire Ready as a vehicle to get people interested and involved.

And speaking of vehicles, Chuck Ridings, a Rotarian, Evergreen Fire/Rescue board member and insurance agent, has purchased a fire truck that is now a moving information booth on wildfire preparedness. It made its debut on Saturday.

John Putt, a Rotary member and real estate agent, said part of the impetus for Rotary Wildfire Ready was to take the overwhelming amount of information about preparing for wildfire and compartmentalizing it into digestible pieces.

“We are all so ill-prepared for evacuation in case of a wildfire,” Putt said, advocating leaving immediately at the first evacuation order rather than waiting until the last minute when the roads will be more congested.

“There’s no downside to leaving early,” he said.

Residents visited a table explaining the importance and benefits of the CodeRED reverse emergency notification system. Area fire departments have learned that only 30% of Jefferson County families have signed up for the system, which will call and text about any kind of emergency, including weather and wildfires.

Several residents, who moved here recently, attended to learn about preparing themselves and their properties in case of wildfire, understanding that what each property owner does impacts neighbors.

Tim and Carla Ehlers, who moved to Indian Hills last year, said they traded Texas hurricanes for the foothills’ wildfires, wanting to learn what they needed to do.

Seena Redan and Tom Jirouschek, who recently moved from down the hill and live near the burn area for the Lower North Fork Fire, said they wake up each day grateful to live in such a beautiful place.

“Learning about the Lower North Fork Fire put a healthy fear in us,” Redan said. “We want to be smart about (wildfire preparedness). We want to be knowledgeable and to make sure we are in the best possible shape (in case of a wildfire).”

Julia Kalish, Elk Creek’s wildfire mitigation specialist, explained that area fire departments will provide residents with assessments of their properties for a $100 fee, including a report on what steps should be taken.

Mark and Tina Susak brought their children, Amelia, 11, and Cooper, 9, to the Elk Creek event, noting that they were well aware that their property needed mitigation, but they didn’t know where to start.

“We are gathering as much information as possible,” Tina Susak said. “Now the ball is in our court. It’s good to know what we need to do next. We want to be able to stay here for 20 years.”

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