Fire Emergency Planning A Challenge For Many Mountain Communities
GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES
VAIL, Colo. (CBS4) – The early start to the fire season this year has many communities taking another look at their fire evacuation plans.
With the deadly Lower North Fork Fire still on many people’s minds, communities in Colorado’s high country are trying to determine how they can make citizens safer.
“We’re hoping to learn from some of the things that they learned (in that fire),” said Chief Mark Miller of the Vail Fire Department. “We’ll take a look at those and we may tweak our plan just a bit.”
The town of Vail is already concerned about their reverse 911 system.
“It doesn’t work with cell phones. Only about 40 percent of the people in this area actually have hard lines for it to work. So we are advocating that people use Eagle County Alert.”
Many counties in the mountains rely on citizens to be proactive to find out about emergencies with similar systems to Eagle County’s alert system.
One major lesson from the Lower North Fork Fire is that emergency preparedness for anyone in the state becomes essential.
“You really need to have things packed or at least know where things are that you’d like to take and know how to to get out quickly,” Miller said. “You shouldn’t necessarily wait for us or the government to tell you when to leave your home.”
Vail sits in a unique position because the thin, deep valley could become particularly dangerous under the right conditions.
“One way in and one way out. It’s a very narrow valley, so you don’t have escape routes other than east and west,” Miller said.
The current city plan informs residents to head to the city’s transportation center, where they can then be directed to a safe escape. That localized meeting spot could be one aspect of the evacuation plan that could change.
Miller also wants to make sure people understand that while the grasses and trees are greening up,
that’s just a change to the color of the plants and isn’t an indicator of a decrease in fire danger.
The Vail Fire Department is also hiring six seasonal wildland firefighters.
The chief said he has noticed more competition for the jobs this year, and that applicants have less experience than in past years.
He says that’s likely because there are a lot of wildland firefighting openings across the country and people looking for work are anxious to get one of them.
The following links have information about reverse 911 plans for different Colorado counties: