It’s never too early to prepare for wildfire season in the Grand Valley | PostIndependent.com

It’s never too early to prepare for wildfire season in the Grand Valley

Caitlin Row
crow@gjfreepress.com

REMEMBER PINE RIDGE?

Though Mesa County was left relatively unscathed during the 2012 wildfire season, the Pine Ridge fire east of Grand Junction (in De Beque Canyon) last July caused choking pollution, nearly jumped Interstate 70, and threatened multiple structures (including natural gas well pads). Folks evacuated from the Pine Ridge fire took refuge in Palisade while firefighters dampened the almost 14,000-acre blaze.

A catastrophic wildfire season, compounded by drought, meant hundreds of Coloradans lost homes or businesses in 2012 across the state. And though moisture levels are up throughout western Colorado in 2013, Grand Junction Fire Department Spokesman Mike Page said fire is still a major risk this summer season.

“Prepare your property now,” Page said. “If you have to leave, you need to know where to go and what route to take.” And creating “defensible space” around homes and residential neighborhoods is critical.

What is defensible space? It’s clearing an area of shrubbery, tall grasses and even trees located near a structure. By removing combustible materials, it makes an area easier to defend in case of rapidly moving wildfires.

“Certainly, we must choose which houses can be saved if there is a fire,” Page said. “If a house has good defensible space around it, we’ll be more likely to figure out ways to save it.”

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Wildland Fire Team also recommends that campers bring water or a fire extinguisher to put out small flames when heading out into open country.

“They should douse the campfire thoroughly, to include stirring the coals,” said Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Heather Benjamin in an email. “For those living in rural areas, they should make sure their homes are clear of debris and fuels that could easily burn (like leaves, dead grasses, firewood stacks, etc.) People should never throw cigarettes out of the vehicle. And overall, use common sense. The best thing to do is prevent fires!”

Page additionally said he expects a fire ban to be in place at some point throughout the valley due to hot and dry weather predictions following a wet spring.

“Growth from wetness will start to dry out, and it will be more susceptible to wildfires,” he said.

Inside the home, Page noted the importance of separating combustible materials from heat sources and not overloading electrical circuits.

“Look back historically in Grand Junction, the greatest majority of fire deaths are caused by smoking (cigarettes) while on oxygen and falling asleep,” he noted.

The Grand Junction Fire Department asks that citizens who see any fire (both wild and structural) call 911 immediately.

“If you’re asking yourself, ‘Should I call 911 or not?’ — you should call,” Page said. “Don’t put yourself in danger. If you know how to use a fire extinguisher or you have a hose, it’s OK to use it. But, we want people to be careful and pay attention to their own personal safety. Just get out if the fire is out of hand.”

To learn more about making your home defensible from fire, stop by your area fire station and pick up “Ready, Set, Go! Your Personal Wildfire Protection Plan.”


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