Participate in your own rescue
My apologies for not being around to write the last two columns. Working 16-hour days on two fire assignments doesn’t allow much time for anything else.The first fire was the local New Castle Fire. People up Canyon Creek and in Canyon Creek Estates knew the drill and evacuated their homes when told it was time to leave.But the Citadel Fire between Cody, Wyo., and Yellowstone was a different story.Our fire team’s assignment was to keep the fire from coming out of the South Fork drainage of the Shoshone River and burning into the North Fork.We were successful this time with Mother Nature’s welcome rain. But next time, the residents living in scattered homes within the wildland/urban interface may not be so lucky.The problem comes down to what one of the experienced firefighters, whose specialty is structural protection, told those present at the public meeting in Wapiti during the fire.He told people living on the North Fork who were concerned about their homes to “participate in your own rescue.”The North Fork of the Shoshone River is similar to many places in Colorado, including some of our own backyards.People build their homes in the woods because they want to live where beauty abounds. Unfortunately, that is often where human understanding of what it means to live in the forest ends.One would think common sense might prevail and cause homeowners to reflect on what could be done to protect their investment from wildfire.Are trees too close or next to the house? Or better yet, is there an adequate clearing around my home of combustible material? How long would it take my family to safely evacuate?This is where the apparently simple phrase “participate in your own rescue” comes into play.Most people I know have smoke alarms in their homes, and a plan in place for family members to meet at a certain safe location should a house fire break out.But how many people who live in the woods have an evacuation plan in place? I dare say few.It’s human nature to feel a loss of control during any fire emergency. Often unclear thinking, strange behavior and even panic set in. People become like deer in our headlights, unable to get out of harm’s way.All the more reason to participate in your own rescue. Have a plan in place. Keep your important papers in a firebox along with those priceless photos you scanned into digital files. Grab it on your way out the door with your family and pets.The rest of the stuff isn’t worth risking your life to try and save. I should know, having safely evacuated my own family from the South Canyon and Coal Seam fires.More than once I have literally pulled people from their homes to safety when a fast-approaching wildfire sounded like a runaway freight train.Don’t endanger yourself and others. Be fire wise and participate in your own rescue.With close to 30 years of experience in federal land management agencies dealing with wildfire, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week. He encourages everyone to log on to http://www.firewise.org for the information on how to be prepared for wildfires.
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