Basalt, Carbondale fire departments prepare for wildfires | AspenTimes.com

Basalt, Carbondale fire departments prepare for wildfires

The flood threat might be waning, but the wildfire threat is waxing in the Roaring Fork Valley, so the fire departments of Basalt and Carbondale have taken steps to be prepared.

Both agencies have started their wildfire-patrol programs in areas such as Missouri Heights. Firefighters go on patrol with an engine in areas that are susceptible to fires and difficult to reach.

Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said the department is sending its Community Wildfire Outreach Team out on patrol three to five days per week. They will step it up as conditions dry out, and they particularly want to patrol on weekends.

The department is taking a two-pronged approach with the patrols. The first is the obvious — to be nearby in case a fire starts. That paid off one recent summer when a lightning strike started a tree ablaze in Missouri Heights.

The second reason for the patrols is to build community awareness of the wildfire threat and educate people on making their properties safer.

“People turn down their awareness gauge until there is a fire,” Thompson said. And if the current conditions of high temperatures, lack of moisture and winds persist, there will be a fire, he said. Northwest Colorado has been under a red-flag warning in recent days, meaning dry conditions could be ripe for a wildfire. The central mountain valleys will soon have those conditions, Thompson said.

The extremely wet May and early June spurred grasses and other vegetation to surge in growth. Now that they’re drying out and dying, they have added to the small fuels that start fires.

“I’m kind of holding my breath right now,” Thompson said.

So the Basalt and Carbondale fire departments are going on the road to help educate homeowners about what they need to do to make their properties less prone to fire. The patrols capture attention while visiting various subdivisions — more so than waiting for homeowners to seek the information.

“To be honest, people aren’t flooding in here to get their houses checked,” Thompson said.

The firefighters on patrol urge people they meet to contact their fire districts to get free consultations on what they need to do to make their properties safer. Wildfire crews will visit properties and make wildfire-risk assessments.

“These assessments evaluate many features of the home, landscaping and topography to give homeowners a sense of how vulnerable their home is to wildfire,” said a joint statement from the two fire departments. “Crews won’t be able to perform mitigation, but their expertise in the wildland-urban interface will be of great value to the homeowner.”

The programs are modeled after the national outreach campaign called “Ready, Set, Go.” More on that can be found at http://www.wild landfirersg.org.

Property owners within either district can contact their fire department to schedule a residential wildfire-risk assessment. Residents in the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District can call 970-963-2491 or get more information at http://www.carbondalefire.org. Those who live within the Basalt & Rural Fire Protection District can call 970-704-0675 or get more information at http://www.basaltfire.org/wildfire.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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