Experts give advice on how to create an emergency kit and protect homes from forest fires

The Buffalo Mountain fire spread on June 12, 2018, near Silverthorne. At a forest fire town hall on Friday, June 18, fire officials offered forest fire mitigation tips and explained how to pack an emergency kit.
Photo by Hugh Carey / Summit Daily Archives

The forest fire season is in full swing with several small fires that have broken out in recent weeks.

To educate the community on forest fire management and how to best prepare for an emergency, Summit County is holding a series of forest fire town halls throughout the season. The first focused on how the county and its partners navigate a wildfire emergency response and what an evacuation would look like.

At the town hall on FridayOn June 18, county leaders met to discuss how individual community members should take precautions in an emergency and how best to protect homes from wildfires. They also discussed various county-wide programs to mitigate possible threats.

What is the current state of fire danger in Summit County?

The meeting began with an update on the Straight Creek fire from Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons.

Although the blaze was brought under control within days, FitzSimons said the event sparked conversations about moving to Stage 1 fire restrictions, which officially rolled out across the county on Friday morning.

“The peaks we’ve seen and the moisture in the fuel are drying up and these weather conditions are unprecedented and people should pay attention to it,” FitzSimons said.

During the meeting, FitzSimons said these conditions “kicked us out” of entering the Stage 2 restrictions and that the only thing to prevent this from happening immediately is if the county receives a rain shower and the fuel humidity changes.

FitzSimons said he and his team, along with other partners, “are following this in real time” and will continue to assess the situation in the days to come.

“You have to be careful and watch what you are doing for your family and be prepared to take action,” FitzSimons said.

How to prepare for a possible evacuation in the event of a forest fire?

One of the best ways to prepare for a forest fire evacuation is to assemble a 72-hour emergency kit, said Amanda Seidler, spokesperson for the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District.

Seidler said the kit should contain everything you might need for three days, including clothes, food, water, medicine, batteries, cash and credit cards, as well as the telephone numbers of important contacts, such as insurance agencies. For those who could sleep in their car, they should also bring bedding such as a sleeping bag and a pillow.

In addition, the kit should include everything needed for children and pets. Seidler recommends bringing games and activities along with pet food and water, a leash and collar, and possibly a kennel or litter box. She also recommended making sure bullets and labels are up to date.

Seidler said it’s important to keep an emergency kit handy in a car or garage. Some people may also keep a checklist of important items to take in an emergency so nothing is left behind.

While not directly included in the kit, Seidler said it’s also important to keep vehicles full of gas.

“In the winter, we think we have fuel in the gas tank and not let it go down to a quarter of a tank,” Seidler said. “The same is true during the forest fire season. Keep it half full. You don’t know when it’s going to happen, and the gas stations are going to be a zoo. “

In the event that you cannot get home within an evacuation time, Seidler suggested communicating with neighbors to make sure all animals are taken care of and working with other organizations like schools or camps beforehand to understand what reunification protocols are like.

In addition to keeping your car stocked and creating a 72-hour escape kit, Seidler said individuals should have conversations with their insurance agents to make sure they have the coverage they need. . It is also useful to follow the social media accounts of local cities, fire districts, and law enforcement agencies to stay up to date. Finally, Seidler recommended that community members sign up for the county’s SC alert system. and download the CodeRed app.

How can I protect my home from forest fire threats?

Some of the easiest ways to protect your home from a wildfire is to make sure your home is at least 30 feet away from any debris, wood piles, tree clusters or vegetation, said Steve Lipsher, carrier. word of Summit Fire & EMS.

Lipsher said that one of the cardinal rules of good forest fire protection is to keep piles of wood away from the siding of the house and decks. At the very least, those stacks should be covered with a fire blanket, he said.

For those with wood stoves, Lipsher suggested keeping a supply of wood near the house from November 1 to April 1 and moving it away during wildfire season. He said the same for building materials.

Trees can also pose a threat to homes, especially if they are tall, mature trees clustered near the house and even more so if they are connected to surrounding forests. Lipsher said fires that start in the canopy of trees are much more difficult to contain than a fire on the ground. He also noted that isolated trees are not as much of a concern.

Above ground propane tanks can also present a risk. Lipsher said it is crucial to maintain the surrounding vegetation and cut it down, as the burning vegetation could heat the tank so much that firefighting personnel would have to be removed from the property and therefore would not be able to save nearby structures.

Another maintenance task homeowners should do is cleaning gutters or decks so they aren’t filled with needles or dried pine leaves.

“Don’t overlook the little things,” Lipsher said. “It could make the difference in saving your house. “

What county-wide programs help mitigate wildfire risk?

Lipsher said Summit Fire & EMS and the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District conduct free assessments and give recommendations to community members on how they can better protect their homes from wildfires. Community members should visit or for more information.

To help mitigate the risk of wildfires, Summit County has implemented a few programs, such as its free mulching program and wildfire mitigation grants. For more information on these programs, visit

The next forest fire town hall will take place on Friday June 25.


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