Jun 14, 2011 10:08 PM by Jeannette Hynes
The Colorado Springs Fire Department has tested vegetation (fuel moisture) in the city and the department is finding a disturbing trend - we're drying out. Way out.
Firefighters say the situation is turning critical and conditions are mimicking what it was like in 2002, when the Hayman Fire burned 138,000 acres in several counties in Colorado.
Now is the time to take action to protect your home, especially if you live on the west side of Colorado Springs or any urban interface.
"The time for mitigation is not when a wildfire happens. Planning and mitigation efforts should be year-round and on-going and planning in advance of what you can do," explains Andrew Nothbohm, wildfire mitigation program coordinator with the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
Johnnie Toniolli lives in the Oak Hills neighborhood of Colorado Springs. He says he worked at least 25 to 30 hours several years ago, cutting up scrub oak and cutting down his wildfire risk.
"You can take a look out here. All this was just really overgrown," describes Toniolli. "I feel safer, but I've got to say there's still a terrible risk down the bottom for the people down there who haven't done it."
Toniolli has made it his mission to get as many neighbors to do what he's done to protect the neighborhood during a wildfire.
"It's got to be everybody doing it. It can't just be one or two people," urges Toniolli.
The Colorado Springs Fire Department says fire mitigation starts with the structure of your home. Toniolli replaced his wooden shingles and stuccoed his house.
Next, think defensible space. The Fire Department suggests grooming the area 30 feet around home. Then, you can tackle the pine needles and scrub oak on the rest of your property.
"Fire mitigation is not clear cutting. We are able to go in here, remove some of the dead, do some thinning and still maintain some of the natural character of the landscape," says Notbohm.
Then, continue to mitigate.
"You have to re-mitigate. You can't just let it go and think that well I've done it now I'm all happy," says Toniolli.
Johnnie says the work is well worth it, knowing if a fire does break out, his fire risk is low and crews can protect his home safely.
The Colorado Springs Fire Department actively works with 65 homeowners associations across the city, particularly on the west side, to help homeowners reduce their fire risk. The fire department has performed wildfire hazard evaluations on more than 35,360 homes. To participate in neighborhood chipping, schedule onsite consultations, or neighborhood meetings, please contact the Wildfire Mitigation office at (719) 385-7342.