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Last updated 9:30PM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Wildfire Prevention & Preparedness Part 3
(2007-04-18)
Whether by air or on land, fighting fires, such as the Black Ridge blaze of May 2006, could be made easier with the help of "Red Zone" according to area fire officials. (Photo: Victor Locke, KSUT)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: As a co-sponsor of local activities marking Wildfire Prevention and Education month, KSUT is bringing you reports this week on wildfire planning, education and prevention.
Today, KSUT's Victor Locke tells us how those who battle wildfires are adding a non-traditional tool to their arsenal of weapons.

BALL: THE IDEA IS TO SORT OF BRING FIREFIGHTING, WILDLAND FIREFIGHTING INTO THE DIGITAL AGE.
Okay, you can't put out a wildfire with a computer.
But Bill Ball, Coordinator for LaPlata's Fire Preparedness Initiative, says something called "Red Zone" will go a long way in helping put out wildfires while protecting lives and property.
"Red Zone" is relatively new computer software developed by a company in Boulder that can help in managing a fire response.
BALL: IT PROVIDES A LOT OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE HOMES THAT ARE POTENTIALLY AFFECTED BY WILDLAND FIRES, LIKE WHAT'S THE ACCESS LIKE, WHATS THE VEGETATION LIKE AROUND IT, WHAT'S THE HOME BUILT OUT OF.
The initiative Ball oversees, is a 180-thousand dollar effort to purchase "Red Zone" software, and survey properties in wildfire prone areas of La Plata and Archuleta Counties to build up a data base.
That data base will ultimately ride along on a laptop on fire equipment, to fire scenes.
BALL: THEY'LL HAVE A FIELD LAPTOP THAT THEY'LL USE AND THIS INFORMATION WILL BE ON THERE. AND THE SOFTWARE ALSO ALLOWS THEM TO DO, THEY CAN DRAW ON MAPS, YOU KNOW, THEY CAN DRAW FIRE PERIMETERS AND DOZER LINES AND THAT SORT OF THING.
HANKS: IT'S A PROGRAM THAT'S GOING TO PROVIDE SOME INCREDIBLE INFORMATION THAT ALLOWS US TO HAVE A PLAN BEFORE I EVER GET TO THE FIRE.
Karola Hanks is Fire Marshall in the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, where survey's of homes and properties are just getting underway, conducted by teams of firefighters and southwest Conservation corp workers.
She described for me how once a Red Zone data base is built, it will help in a fire response.
HANKS: LET'S SAY I GET A CALL TO 337 SAN MORITZ. THE CALL'S GOING TO COME OUT, POSSIBLE STRUCTURE FIRE, POSSIBLE WILDLAND FIRE, WHATEVER THAT INCIDENT IS. AND AS I WOULD RESPOND TODAY, WE GET IN THE TRUCK AND WE HEAD OUT. BUT ONCE THIS PROGRAM IS IN PLACE, WHAT WE HAVE IS, YOU'RE GOING TO 337 SAN MORITZ. GENTLEMAN IN THE TRUCK, GENTLEMAN OR LADY, GOES AHEAD AND PLUGS IN 337 SAN MORITZ AND UP ON THE SCREEN COMES TWO STORY HOUSE, VINYL SIDING, METAL ROOF, SEVERE TREE EXPOSURE ADJACENT TO IT, SOUTH FACING SLOPE. IT TELLS US ALL THESE THINGS SO WE BEGIN TO HAVE A PICTURE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING IN FRONT OF US BEFORE WE EVER GET THERE. SO WHEN WE PULL UP ON SCENE WE ALREADY HAVE A PLAN. I NEED TO STOP THE FIRE FROM GOING HERE, I NEED TO MOVE IT FROM HERE, I HAVE A TWO STORY HOUSE, I NEED TO GET A LADDER OUT, IT'S NOT A SINGLE STORY HOUSE, WE'VE GOT PLANS IN EFFECT.
That preparedness, Karola says, not only leads to a faster more effective response, it could also help save lives.
Ball says it's also hoped the survey process helps further wildfire education.
BALL: WHAT WE'RE HOPING IS THAT A BYPRODUCT OF THIS WILL BE, THAT IT WILL RAISE AWARENESS AMONG HOMEOWNERS, AND HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS, SUBDIVISIONS, ABOUT UTILIZING DEFENSIVE SPACE IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS, THAT THAT'S REALLY THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE.
Both Ball, and Hanks say the Red Zone mapping won't lead to homes being blackconed or written off as unsavable.
HANKS: DON'T THINK THAT JUST BECAUSE WE GO OUT AND SURVEY A HOUSE, AND YOU'VE GOT A SHAKE SHINGLE ROOF AND WE CAN'T ACCESS YOUR DRIVEWAY, VARIOUS OTHER ISSUES, WE'RE NOT GOING TO PUT A BLACK X ON YOUR HOUSE AND SAY WE'RE NOT GOING TO TRY AND PROTECT THAT HOUSE...THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO WITH THIS INFORMATION. BUT IT IS GOING TO TELL US WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LAY HOSE UP THAT DRIVEWAY, WE'VE GOT A SHAKE SHINGLE ROOF, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO PROTECT THAT ROOF BECAUSE IT'S GOING TO CATCH ON FIRE.
Mailers will be sent to those who will be surveyed a week to a month in advance.
You'll have a chance, if you want, to opt out of the survey.
But that won't necessarily stop surveyors from doing a windshield, or driveby survey of your property, with the hope that ultimately all that data will improve fire suppression, saving not only property, but even lives.
You can find out more at redzonesoftware.com. Also checkout southwestcoloradofires.org for more information on wildfire mitigation and prevention.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.

Tomorrow, we look at tribal efforts to manage and fight wildfire on reservation lands.
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