Fire danger expected to increase significantly in Teller High Country

Mitigation efforts and security preparedness guidance encouraged

Trevor Phips

Even with a slight reprieve locally from a recent snowstorm, the entire state of Colorado experienced extremely dangerous fire conditions.

This evoked bad memories as Teller County is located inside a red hot danger zone for wildfires and has seen its share of difficult disastrous fires in recent years. But at the same time, this alert is fueling the need for major fire mitigation efforts.

Lack of rainfall, coupled with abnormally fast winds, became the two main culprits for the early season fires.

Many residents who remember the tragic Hayman and Waldo Canyon fires in the past have made efforts to increase community preparedness. This Saturday (May 7), the Northeast Teller County Fire Department (NETCO) will host a Community Wildfire Preparedness Day to help residents prepare for the potentially intense fire danger season ahead in the next months.

Typically, fire season in southern Colorado doesn’t start until late May and early June. However, as of April this year, the state has already seen several fires ignite, including half a dozen in Teller County and surrounding areas.

The bad news is that many local experts see no light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to fire risks this year. The weather forecast shows no significant precipitation in the Ute Pass area over the next few weeks.

According to Four Mile Fire Chief Jay Teague, it is unusual that fires have already started in the area. “It doesn’t look too good because we don’t usually get into very high fire danger until June or July,” the fire chief said. “Usually we get late snowfalls throughout May. But due to the lack of precipitation, our humidity levels are already at the boundary of the ‘very high’ to ‘extreme’ range, according to the matrix. of the US Forest Service.

He also said abnormally high winds have been a major contributing factor to the high fire risks. “The real problem has been the continued high winds,” Teague said. “We’ve had a record number of days with winds (speeds) above 20 to 30 miles per hour and that’s drying everything out.”

And sadly, the fire chief doesn’t see the fire danger situation improving anytime soon. “The predicted weather model doesn’t show any type of significant precipitation, so it could get worse,” Teague explained.

Teague also said the southwest part of Teller County has worse fire risks than other parts of the county. Sections of the county that Four Mile Fire Department departments see significantly less precipitation than areas near the Rampart Range, such as Woodland Park and Divide.

The fire chief also stressed the importance of paying attention to the risk of starting a forest fire.

“Even though we are in a stage one burning restriction, you are still legally allowed to have a campfire in a permanent fire ring,” Teague said. “Some people think they can still do it just because it’s legal to do it, but when we have these gusts of 30 to 40 miles per hour, it’s very easy for those embers to get blown out of that. ring of fire and then light a fire. This would be a clue is not to burn the period.

Teague also said people who burn a woodstove or fireplace in their home should properly dispose of their hot coals. Smoking outside can also become very dangerous when the risk of fire is high.

Fire department hosts special event to prepare for wildfires

This Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, NETCO will host a wildfire preparedness event at its Woodland Park fire station. The event is not new to the city this year, as several groups have held similar community information events in the past.

However, due to the pandemic, there has not been a similar wildfire information event for the past two years and the one they had planned for 2019 has been stalled. This year, members of the fire department and other community organizations will participate in the event.

According to one of the organizers of the event, Mike Nakai, the main objective of the wildfire preparedness day will be to get people to register with the emergency alert systems in place in the county. “The message we’re trying to get across is that it’s every individual’s responsibility,” Nakai said. “They need to take responsibility for getting on the notification sign-up lists. Law enforcement will try to visit affected homes, knock on doors and ensure they are evacuated. But depending on the size of the fire and its location, they might not be able to do that.

He said there will be stations set up which will also explain proper evacuation procedures. There will also be people focusing on mitigation to explain landscapes and different types of vegetation that can make homes more fire resistant.

A space will be provided for children so that they are not present when sensitive subjects concerning the fires are discussed. Smoky the Bear is also expected to make an appearance.

Toya J. Bell