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Last updated 9:39PM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Wildfire Prevention & Preparedness Part 2
(2007-04-17)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: As part of Fire Prevention and Education Month, KSUT is airing a number of reports this week on wildfire preparation and prevention.
Today, KSUT's Ken Brott tells us about a growing program of neighbors helping neighbors in preparing for and perhaps even surviving wildfire.
It's known as the Firewise Neighborhood Ambassador's Program.

STABY: THE AMBASSADOR PROGRAM SPECIFICALLY, IS TRYING TO GET A PERSON IN EACH SUBDIVISION OR NEIGHBORHOOD TO BE THE LIAISON IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD, TO PROVIDE EDUCATION AND INFORMATION AROUND FIREWISE KINDS OF PRINCIPLES AS WELL AS TOOLS TO HELP THEM TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN SITUATION AND THEIR RESPECTIVE PROPERTY, THEIR PREPAREDNESS LISTS, THEIR SLASH REMOVAL, AND ALL SORTS OF OTHER GOOD SIDE ISSUES THAT GO ALONG WITH THAT.
KEN: Jigger Staby has been the firewise ambassador for the Shenandoah Subdivision West of Durango since the program started back in 2004.
The Firewise Council of Southwest Colorado began the neighborhood ambassador program based on research done by Fort Lewis College.
It was discovered that one of the most trusted sources of information regarding wildfire issues was from neighbors and friends, people who know each other.
The ambassador program was formed as a result of that research, and in part as a response to the wildfire season of 2002 which included the Missionary Ridge and Valley Fires.
Staby says that since then a lot of new residents have moved to the area who may not remember the events during that fiery summer of '02.
Her job, as an ambassador, is to make sure the residents of her subdivision are educated and prepared for wildfire.
STABY: ACTUALLY, WE FORMED A FIRE COMMITTEE RIGHT AFTER MISSIONARY RIDGE WHICH PRECEEDED THE FORMAL AMBASSADOR PROGRAM, AND I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT IN THE BEGINNING TRYING TO DO SOME EDUCATION AND INFORMATION GATHERING AND DISTRIBUTION OF INFORMATION AROUND FIRE PROTECTION. AND THAT EVOLVED INTO THE AMBASSADOR PROGRAM. BUT BASICALLY WHAT WE'VE DONE IS ONE ON ONE COMMUNICATION THROUGH ME TO NEW RESIDENTS TRYING TO FOCUS ON NEW PEOPLE THAT MOVE IN AND BUY LAND OR HOMES AND GET INFORMATION TO THEM EARLY ON. I'M LUCKY THAT MY HUSBAND'S ON THE ARCHITECTURAL COMMITTEE SO EVERY NEW HOME THAT'S BUILT, WE GET A CHANCE TO SIT WITH NEW OWNERS AND TALK ABOUT WHAT TO DO, WHAT NOT TO DO AROUND SOME OF THE FIRE ISSUES AS WELL AS WATER AND OTHER LAND ADVISORY THINGS.
KEN: Some neighborhoods are at a higher risk than others simply because they're located in heavily wooded areas.
In addition to resident awareness and education, there's usually quite a bit of property mitigation to be done in preparation for the upcoming wildfire season.
Jack Cannon is the Firewise Ambassador for the Enchanted Forest Estates Subdivision, East of Durango between Lemon and Vallecito Reservoirs.
CANNON: WE HAVE 78 LOTS. EACH LOT IS A LITTLE OVER 3 ACRES. WE HAVE 54 HOMES THAT HAVE BEEN BUILT. WE HAVE A DENSE FOREST AREA. OUR FIRE CHIEF FEELS THAT WE ARE CONSIDERED TO BE A HIGH RISK SIMPLY BECAUSE WE'RE ON A SLOPE THAT RUNS FROM SOUTH TO NORTH, WE'RE BASICALLY SOUTH FACING SLOPES IN THERE, AND WE DO HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF BRUSH AND TREE DENSITY. SOME OF THE LOTS, QUITE A FEW OF THE LOTS ACTUALLY HAVE DONE MITIGATION WORK. BUT IT'S FAIRLY RARE THAT YOU CAN GET IT ALL DONE. AND WE HAVE THE LOTS THAT PEOPLE DON'T LIVE ON, NONE OF THOSE LOTS HAVE HAD ANY MITIGATION AT ALL DONE, SO THAT MAKES IT A MORE HIGH RISK AREA.
KEN: Creating defensible space around a mountain home can be a daunting task, especially if a property isn't maintained or occupied on a regular basis. Cannon says it can take a lot of time and money, but mitigation is a must for the entire subdivision. The issue is brought up at numerous meetings throughout the year.
CANNON: AND WE HAVE FOUR MEETINGS A YEAR AND THIS ISSUES IS DISCUSSED AT EACH MEETING. AT OUR APRIL MEETINGS WE DISCUSS IT BECAUSE APRIL IS WILDFIRE MONTH, AND WE'LL HAVE OUR FIRE MARSHALL FROM THE UPPER PINE RIVER FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT AT THE MEETING TO DISCUSS THE RED ZONE PROJECT AND ALL OF THE OTHER MITIGATION PROJECTS. BUT WE TRY TO MAKE THAT INFORMATION AVAILABLE AND KEEP IT IN FRONT OF THE PEOPLE YEAR ROUND AT EACH OF OUR MEETINGS.
KEN: Education and preparation are key elements in becoming fire ready, but good communication is essential when a fire strikes.
JT Coyne is the Ambassador for Vista de Oro, a subdivision in the Southwest Corner of La Plata County.
COYNE: WE HAVE TAKEN ADVICE FROM THE FIREWISE COUNCIL AND COME UP WITH A PHONE TREE THAT THE FIRST PERSON THAT SEES THE FIRE OF COURSE CALLS THE 911 NUMBER, AND THEN WE ACTIVATE OUR PHONE TREE AND IT CONTAINS ALL OF OUR RESIDENTS, THEIR HOME PHONE, THEIR CELL PHONE, THEIR KID'S CELLPHONE NUMBERS, THE SCHOOLS WHERE THEIR KIDS ARE AT. IN OUR LISTS WE EVEN LIST THE PETS NAMES SO WE KNOW WHEN EVERYBODY'S IN OR OUT, AND WE ACTIVATE THAT. AND WHEN WE CALL WE ASK THEM TO TURN ON THEIR RADIO SHACK SCANNER AND WE CAN LISTEN IN ON THE FIRE CALLS OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, WE KNOW HOW THE FIRE'S PROGRESSING AND WHETHER THERE'S GOING TO BE AN EVACUATION AND THINGS LIKE THAT. SO THAT SYSTEM WORKS VERY EFFECTIVE IN PASSING OUR INFORMATION AROUND VERY QUICKLY.
KEN: Communicating with your neighbors and working together to create defensible space and evacuation plans is critical for wildfire survival. Being prepared can save your home, and perhaps your life, and according to ambassador Joy Mathes, you owe it to the people working to save your home from flames.
MATHES: IT'S A RESPONSIBILITY THAT EACH ONE OF US HAS. AND WHEN YOU PICK UP THAT PHONE TO DIAL 911 YOU'RE ACTUALLY ASKING THE RESPONDERS TO PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE FOR YOU. AND THAT'S OUR DUTY AND CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY TO THOSE FOLKS THAT ARE GOING TO RESPOND, THAT WHEN YOU ASK THEM TO PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE, THAT YOU AS A PERSON HAVE DONE EVERYTHING THAT YOU'VE DONE, BECAUSE IF THEY'RE GOING TO RISK THEIR LIFE FOR YOU, YOU NEED TO HAVE BEEN PREPARED AS WELL.
KEN: The Firewise Ambassador program is rapidly growing as residents become more aware of wildfire danger in the area. There will be a neighborhood ambassador orientation program open to anyone who's interested, Thursday April 26th, from 530 to 8pm at the San Juan Public Lands Center in Durango. For more information, you can call 247-8306. You can also learn more about the Firewise Neighborhood Ambassadors program by going to the website southwestcoloradofires.org. Click on Firewise Southwest Colorado under the preventions tab and there you'll find a link for more information.
For KSUT Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Ken Brott.

Tomorrow at this time, we'll tell you about how fighting wildfires is moving into the digital age, and how it could impact you.
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