Preparing for Disaster: Wildfires

by Maggie Flickinger

As spring is upon us, we can’t help but stretch toward the warmth and relax into the longer days and their promise of summer. However, in Colorado we also overhear tense conversations about how great the massive highcountry snows are, but will they help mitigate fire danger or will the snowmelt just raise already swollen watertables? People are still impacted from last fall’s flooding, and even from the previous summers’ wildfires. Colorado has long been thought of as a relatively “disaster proof” state – free from hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. The recent years’ activity has shifted Coloradan’s thinking. Increasingly volatile weather patterns point to persistent and growing natural disasters as time passes – even the United Nations agrees, with their unequivocal March report on climate change and weather patterns.

preparing for disaster wildfires

Colorado and the Front Range has many communities that straddle urbanity and the wilds – approximately 40% of Coloradans live in this wildlands urban interface (WUI) – which increases the potential for disaster impact, especially from fire.  However, we’re also resilient and proactive, learning from the past to affect the future. Back in 2010, Sam Nishek, the Principal of Building Technology at Barrett Studio architects, wrote an article called “Wildfire Resistant by Design.”  The information in that post regarding designing for wildfire resistance is still useful, and we have some new tools for you as you prepare for summer and what it may bring.

Wildfire Preparedness Resources:

  • Prepare an emergency kit & emergency communications plan for yourself and family members who live in the area.
  • Insure your home and its belongings against disaster. Check existing insurance policies against the home’s current value and against specifics – does the policy cover outbuildings and the “toys” that may have accumulated in them over the years? The Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) has a helpful pamphlet on Wildfire & Insurance
  • Defend your home in advance by Creating Wildfire Defensible Zones, use Firewise’s 11 step checklist to simplify the process.
  • If you’re building a new home, seek an architect experienced in WUI issues, and follow Firewise Construction guides.  See our post on Wildfire Resistant by Design for more ideas.
  • “Pin” your home and learn about location specific risks and mitigation tactics with this interactive Wildfire Risk Assessment Mapping tool
  •  The federal government has been beefing up their disaster preparedness resources, with information specific to wildfires at their ready.gov site.
  • Join communities and individuals nationwide on May 3 for National Wilfdire Preparedness Day!  Join an event in progress, create your own community / neighborhood event, or take the day to protect your home with defensive measures. 

And, for inspiration from some resilient homeowners who have come face-to-face with fire and emerged out the other side, check out our series on Loss & Opportunity: Part I: First Responder & AAC | Part II: The Phoenix Rising | Part III: Resilience in Sharing

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