John Colson: ‘Ready, Set, Go’ not just a summer thing

John Colson
Hit & Run

“The fire season is now a year-round reality in many areas, requiring firefighters and residents to be on heightened alert for the threat of wild-land fire.”

So states the opening line of the “Ready, Set, Go” instructional document about fire-related evacuations and other responses, recently sent to me by Ali Hager, Director of Community Wildfire Resilience for the Aspen Fire District and available from all area fire departments.

OK, OK, settle down, I know we’ve been hearing these kinds of things from all over in recent months.

But, as any fire-aware official will tell you, it’s already well past the time you should be thinking about how you will react when (not “if”) a fire sprouts up in a woody or grassy area near you.

Fire departments have been having public meetings to alert people about the dangers of fire and the ways to cope; the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District is having one Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the main Carbondale Fire House on Meadowood Drive, just up the highway from my home.

There will be fire-awareness officials on hand, information will be offered in English and Spanish, and Carbondale Fire’s public information officer Jenny Cutright urged any and all interested area residents to show up and listen closely.

Cutright also spoke of a brand new online program, “Community Connect” ( for English speakers, for Spanish speakers). Area residents can use these links to “share critical information about your household that will aid first-responders and emergency response personnel when responding to your residence,” according to an explanatory online statement by Carbondale Fire Chief Rob Goodwin.

“I’d love to have a full house,” Cutright said over the phone, about the fire preparedness event Thursday. “I’m hoping to have the room filled to the gills with people wanting to learn.”

Still, as implied above, we all know it’s fire season, though we may not all know what to do when a fire comes to visit.

I got to thinking about all this recently after a spate of news stories about “unseasonably” (except there is not really a “season” any more) early fires in various spots around the state.

These recent fires have, mercifully and happily, generally been put out quickly by the various fire-fighting agencies, for which we all should be demonstratively grateful — if you see a fire-department employee of any type, be sure to thank her or him for their service.

As I was considering the topic, it came to me that perhaps there are ways that regular local citizens — those with little connection to their respective fire departments other than during fire emergencies — might be able to help keep a lid on things and relieve some of the burden shouldered by our fire-laddies and fire-lassies.

Along that line of thought, I called up a couple of local fire departments to get the word on what the departmental experts might find helpful.

The answers, put very broadly, was pretty much the same from the Aspen, Basalt/Roaring Fork and Carbondale departments: Be prepared to evacuate, sign up for emergency alerts, check fire department websites for information, and DO NOT try to wet down your home and property using a garden hose. It might turn out well in some cases, but generally it’s not helpful to have citizens waving hoses at the flames, the experts say.

Those who live in more remote locations have been been learning for years about “hardening your home” against fire by removing brush and trees from roughly a 30-foot zone near the home; pulling firewood stacks away from the exterior walls of the home; have an evacuation plan all ready and known to everyone in the household; and sign up for whatever emergency alert system is most appropriate to your situation (phone, text or email).

These alerts are offered by all three of the local counties (Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield) and are available in English and Spanish, and in most cases can be accessed through a fire-department website. Carbondale Fire, for instance, has a link prominently placed on its home page titled “Sign Up To Get Emergency Alerts,” just in case you are somewhat informationally challenged.

Oh, yeah, about why it’s not a good idea to stand your ground and wave a garden hose against the raging flames of an approaching wall of fire.

It’s really pretty simple — not only do most of us not know anything about how to fight, or even to hold off a fire, but to pull water out of the local system through your hose or sprinkler can diminish the flow of water to hydrants, which in turn means there might not be sufficient water pressure to let the firefighters do what they do best.

And make no mistake about it, we here in the Roaring Fork Valley have been blessed with highly capable and dedicated fire protection services, as I have witnessed in more than four decades of covering the news here.

But to do the stellar jobs they can, as has been pressed upon me by fire officials, they need us, the citizens, to do our job, which essentially is to get out of the way and allow the pros to concentrate their hoses and their intentions on the job at hand rather than saving people or pets or attend to other distractions.

So, get ready, and good luck to us all.