COLORADO SPRINGS — On a high fire danger day like today, it's important to have an emergency wildfire plan in place. This is also the case for Southern Colorado's biggest attractions, as visitors make their way to our area.
From our parks to attractions like the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, leaders at all of the attractions say they have an emergency preparedness plan in place, and they’re ready to respond to any emergency including a wildfire.
“One of the things that we think about a lot here is wild land fires. obviously today is a high fire danger and it's on our on our mind just like everybody else,” said Jenny Koch, the marketing director at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Koch says the zoo has had an extensive plan in place for years, and they have an emergency preparedness team that has been heavily trained.
If a wildfire, or emergency were to occur, their plan includes evacuating guests first, and closing the zoo if there is imminent danger. Then their focus is on getting the animals to safety, but the animals are not evacuated.
“Stress levels can be life threatening for animals if we try to move them in that kind of situation. so we've identified safe zones on zoo grounds, where they can be either sheltered in place or some species would be moved to those areas where there'll be safer,” said Koch.
The plan provides safety for all species of animals. Koch says safe zones at the zoo include, “buildings that are built out of fire-safe materials, they're equipped with sprinkler systems and they’re fire mitigated, and also have defensible spaces around them like parking lots or roads or ponds or places that are fire safe.”
Emergency plans are also in place at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, which covers about 2,700 acres.
The park manager says all staff are firefighter trained, and work closely with local fire departments. A fire suppression trailer is ready to go at all times, fire mitigation is done regularly, and several grants will also allow them to do large fire mitigation projects this summer.
For both attractions, reviewing and updating the plan every year is also part of keeping animals and the community safe.
“We’re constantly reviewing it. we're in the process of reviewing it now just to make sure we're as prepared as we can be,” said Koch.
The emergency response team at the zoo has drills every year on emergency preparedness, and they will have another drill within the next month. The zoo also works closely with the local fire department on fire mitigation plans.