Wildfires are an annual occurrence throughout Eagle County. We live in fire ecosystems where fire will occur. Many fire effects are not only beneficial; they are necessary and natural for ecosystem health. Resource managers try to maximize beneficial effects through the use of prescribed fire and fire use (managing ignitions for resource purposes). Wind-driven fires pose the most serious threat.
About half the wildfires in Colorado are lightning-caused. The rest have some human connection.
In Colorado, the wildlands that are prone to fire overlap expanding mountain subdivisions. This overlap is called the red zone. It is also referred to as the wildland-urban interface. Since fire is common in the red zone, special precautions are necessary for homeowners and land managers.
Individuals living within the wildland-urban interface can take steps to reduce the risk of fire losses. For example, you can create a Safety Zone around your home or business by doing the following.
- Stack firewood at least 30 feet away and uphill from your home.
- Clear combustible material within 15 feet.
- Mow grass regularly.
- Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
- Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
- Thin a 10-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 10 feet of the ground.
- Remove vines from the walls of the home.
- Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
What should I do?
- Be aware of fire risks and take responsibility for your use of fire.
- Be careful with smokes and campfires - only build fires in rings or grates.
- Use self-contained cookers or chemical stoves.
- Keep hot mufflers and catalytic converters clear of grasses and shrubs.
- Burn debris with care and after obtaining the necessary permit.
- If you see smoke or a fire, call 9-1-1. They will notify the correct agencies.
- Think about where you would go to flee a fire, what you would take, how you would get out, and an alternate route out in case the one you're planning on is blocked. This is the same kind of planning you do with your family for escaping a fire in your home.
- Know your personal limitations. Don't put yourself or others at risk.
How can I help? What can my community do?
- Be informed about defensible space and how it can minimize fire danger around your property.
- Be aware of approaches your community may wish to take in adopting fire-wise covenants, ordinances, and transportation plans.
How we fight wildfires - interagency cooperation
Wildfires are fought by a diverse group of firefighters and support personnel from local, state, and federal agencies. It's the best example of seamless government we know. The goal is to mitigate unwanted fire and provide public safety.
Wildfires are not "put out" in the sense that a house fire is extinguished. Firefighters surround (contain) wildfires within defensible boundaries. Fire lines (constructed by hand, by bulldozer, and by retardant drops, or extended to existing trails or roads) and natural features (streams, lakes, rock outcrops, ridgelines, and already burned areas) are connected to surround the fire. Once the main fire is contained, firefighters mop-up the remaining hot spots and the fire line to achieve control over the fire.
Fire behavior/suppression tactics
Trying to stop a raging wildfire - even with the array of available technological and personnel resources - is like trying to stop a tornado. Air tankers don't put wildfires out; they provide a temporary fire line and help cool fuels.