Colorado fires should prompt us to look closer to home
June 14, 2013
According to NBC News, it’s the most destructive fire in Colorado history. About 25 square miles have been scorched this week near Colorado Springs. Two people are dead. Almost 380 homes have been destroyed. About 38,000 people have been forced to flee.
But wait a minute. Didn’t we just have a fire like this in Colorado maybe a year ago?
Sure enough. The numbers from this week’s Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs are eerily similar to those from the Waldo Canyon Fire, also near Colorado Springs, in June 2012. That fire also cost two lives and destroyed more than 300 homes. It also forced more than 30,000 people to leave. According to news reports, one family has been burned out twice losing one home last year and another this year after moving in with the in-laws.
For those of us who live in so-called urban-rural interfaces, where civilization meets wilderness, it’s yet another reason to look at our own actions and our own homes, and to evaluate what’s most important in our own lives.
So far, in the Park City area, we’ve been lucky. Last year a fire west of the Jordanelle Reservoir stopped short of homes near the state park. A couple of years before that a fire on Masonic Hill was extinguished by firefighters before reaching homes in the Aerie. In 2001, as worried Summit Park residents watched, crews managed to put out a fire about a mile below them in Parleys Canyon.
But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. Since the majority of wildfires are caused by people, we need to begin by looking at our own behavior.
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Target practice has been blamed for a number of fires in Utah in recent years, including one at Camp Williams south of Salt Lake City that gutted several homes. Keeping guns out of the backcountry during the wildfire season is a no-brainer.
Fireworks are another obvious culprit. Sure, fireworks are great entertainment, but the risks outweigh the rewards. We applaud this week’s vote by the Park City Council to ban private fireworks, except sparklers and snakes, from now through Oct. 31, and urge the Summit County Council to follow suit.
In preventing fire from damaging our homes, we can learn a lot from our neighbors one state to the east. A recent study of the 2012 fire, "Lessons Learned from Waldo Canyon," sponsored by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, points to a number of steps that property owners can take either in building new homes or in keeping existing homes from going up in smoke. Among the suggestions: use windows of multipane tempered glass; keep firewood, mulch and woody vegetation five feet away from buildings; and create a clearance of at least six inches between the ground, where embers accumulate, and the lowest piece of combustible siding. For details on the study, visit http://www.fireadapted.org/~/media/Fire%20Adapted/Images/News%20Images/Waldo-Canyon-Rpt-FINAL-shrunk%203.pdf
And last, but certainly not least, let’s take an inventory of what’s most important to us so that, if we are forced to leave in the event of a fire, our families, our pets and our most treasured possessions make it out with us.