Experts are already calling this the worst fire season since 2002, and every day we hear of a new one. Last year, while visiting the scene of the Fourmile Canyon fire, I saw firsthand the devastation forest fires can cause. And this Saturday, I'm going back to Fourmile Canyon to lend a hand to an effort sponsored by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado to help impacted families recover from the fire.
Our state depends on the steady flow of tourists to our natural resources and recreational sites, as well as the watersheds that supply our farms and cities with water. But the bark beetle epidemic has turned hundreds of acres of our forests to kindling, which increase the risk of fire and threaten infrastructure and waterways.
I've been fighting for years to make sure Colorado gets the attention and resources we need to keep our forests healthy, and to deal with beetle-killed trees and the threat they pose to our homes, livelihoods and recreation areas. While federal action is sorely needed to address the bark beetle epidemic and mitigate the risk of forest fire, we must not discount the efforts of volunteers who lend their time to aid their communities.
Lend a hand to a bark beetle-mitigation or other volunteer project in your community. In the West, we know the awesome power of fire and how it can level hundreds of homes in a matter of heartbreaking minutes. But we also know the healing effect fire can have on the land, and its ability to reinvigorate forests to come back healthier and stronger than before.
Fire is an important part of the ecology of healthy Western forests, but we need to be prepared.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The smallest of precautionary steps now could keep that spark from becoming a blaze and every hour donated by a volunteer could mean a house saved or a watershed protected. Please take some time to explore the resources below to learn about fire prevention and preparedness. And remember, as Smokey Bear would say, "Only you can prevent a wildfire."
Err on the side of caution. Don't discard cigarettes from moving cars into the brush, think before doing anything that could cause a spark in the backcountry and avoid outdoor burning.
Be aware of fire risk by watching for posted warnings, and take responsibility for obeying restrictions in your area.
Prepare Your Property for Fire
If you live in high-risk areas, you can take precautionary steps to protect your homes from fire, such as installing fire-resistant roofing and creating defensible space around your home, including carefully storing firewood and other flammable objects.
Be Ready for An Evacuation
Thousands of homes have already been evacuated this season, and it can be a harrowing process. Families can cut down on stress by implementing an evacuation plan that ensures the safety of people and essential belongings. If you have neighbors who are elderly or have special needs, consider them in your plans too.