Aspen getting proactive with wildfire threat | AspenTimes.com

Aspen getting proactive with wildfire threat

ASPEN – Recognizing that the first 24 hours after a wildfire erupts is critical to its containment, the Aspen City Council adopted a resolution Friday giving the city manager permission to spend whatever funds necessary should a fire break out in Aspen.

“The first 24 hours you’re on your own as a city and county,” Mayor Mick Ireland said. “Should it come to this, we want the city manager to have the funds to do whatever is necessary.”

The council also approved $10,000 toward a public information campaign about wildfire prevention and what to do if a fire were to strike locally.

“Someone said it’s not a matter of if a wildfire will strike – it’s a matter of when. And I have to agree with them,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. “Inevitably, a fire will start somewhere.

“We are here to make sure we are prepared.”

The discussion – and monetary decisions – came at an emergency meeting called by Ireland to address the wildfire situation. While there are no fires currently ablaze in the Roaring Fork Valley, firefighters are battling several fires across the state, including one west of Glenwood Springs near De Beque.

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In addition to giving blanket approval to acquire equipment and personnel should a fire strike, the City Council invited members of the county’s Incident Management Team to share with those assembled the work they’ve done as well as tips on what to do should an evacuation be necessary.

“I want to let the citizens of Pitkin County know we are as prepared as we can be,” said DiSalvo, adding that he will be making a “six-figure” request to the Board of County Commissions on Tuesday for funds to be used in the first 24 hours of firefighting if necessary. “The goal is pre-planning for any event we can think of.”

Along those lines, other members of the Incident Management Team urged residents to plan ahead, as well, because when it comes to wildfires, nothing is predictable once the first flame flares.

“Fires are an extremely difficult emergency to deal with because we have absolutely no idea how a fire will behave,” DiSalvo said. “For now, the best strategy is to be informed and aware.”

To keep the community informed, the Incident Management Team created a website, PitkinErmergency.org, where up-to-date information and important links can be found. Residents also are encouraged to sign up for Pitkin Alerts – go to http://www.pitkinalert.org – which will send text messages and emails in case of an emergency.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com

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