Community meeting highlights ongoing fire and flood risk

Posted at 10:50 PM, Apr 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-12 00:50:54-04

There was better-than-expected turnout Wednesday at a community meeting in Colorado Springs to learn about the fire and flood forecast heading into summertime.

"You have to know what to do to prepare your property so that your buildings don’t end up burning down because of a fire coming through," said Gordon Brenner, Recovery Coordinator for the City of Colorado Springs’ Office of Emergency Management.

Representatives from the Red Cross, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, National Weather Service, the Colorado Springs Fire Department, and Colorado Springs Police gave attendees the need-to-know information to be ready in case of another fire of the scale of 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire or the devastating flash floods that inevitably follow.

One key, but underutilized, resource is emergency notifications from El Paso-Teller County 911.  "There’s about 43,000 people registered and we’re in a community of 600,000, so that gives you an idea of how big a population we’re missing," said Ben Bills with the El Paso-Teller County 911 Authority.  Signing up on the Everbridge mobile app will notify a user of emergencies for up to five addresses, plus any warnings at your present location, even if you’re traveling.

Fortunately, now six years after the Waldo Canyon Fire, the flood risk from burned mountainsides is finally going down.  "The burn scar is about 73 percent re-vegetated," Brenner said.  "That is really great news."

Meanwhile, a new firefighting resource could be coming to the Pikes Peak region.  Talks are in the works between Fort Carson, the U.S. Forest Service, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado), and the Colorado Springs Airport to establish an air tanker base at the Colorado Springs Airport.  "It’s central to the country, we have a long runway, we’ve got good facilities, and we think this is the optimal location, and so does the Forest Service," said Airport Director Greg Phillips.  A temporary tanker base could be operational by May 1, Phillips says, with a permanent base possible in the next few years.  "We’re on our way.  It’s just some crossed Ts and dotted Is that we have to finish to be able to get paperwork to do this," Phillips said.