Our leaders need to help communities become fire resilient | AspenTimes.com

Our leaders need to help communities become fire resilient

I was scared. I was working at the Command Post of the Grizzly Creek Fire as ash was falling on me and the people and vehicles around me. I will never forget the fear of waiting for the wind to change and wondering what I would do if my family and I had to evacuate our home.

The summer of 2020 was the start of my career as a Public Information Officer, working with state, local and federal agencies and Incident Management Teams on wildland fires. This past year, I encountered many displaced people and disrupted lives while working all summer on megafires in Colorado, Oregon and California.

My experience has convinced me that we must invest in community resiliency, including steps to become fire adapted communities. In wildfire-prone areas, fire adapted communities reduce the potential for loss of human life and injury, minimize danger to homes and infrastructure and reduce firefighting costs by taking necessary steps to prepare people and property before wildfire occurs.

We are still dealing with the aftermath of the Grizzly Creek Fire. We no longer have “fire season.” Fires happen year-round. The recent devastation in the Boulder area, where fire destroyed over 1,000 structures in just half a day, occurred in mid-winter.

To become a fire resilient community, we must work on infrastructure improvements including water infrastructure to keep water flowing to our farms, ranches and communities, and emergency response strategies such as evacuation routes and upgrading community shelters. We must also invest in our human infrastructure, including our CDOT state workers, Fire Districts and communication systems that reach everyone in our community.

We need leadership that understands our rural community and will fight for us at the state capitol to make sure we have the resources we need. Now more than ever we need elected officials who will ensure that no matter what we look like, where we come from or what’s in our wallets, we have what we need to take care of our families.

Elizabeth Velasco

Glenwood Springs