Our view: Forewarned is forearmed | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Forewarned is forearmed

September 2017 has turned into a month for natural disasters. As Texas' Gulf Coast begins the process of recovering from the devastation of last month's Hurricane Harvey, two more powerful hurricanes — Irma and Jose — are bearing down on Florida and the East Coast.

And while hurricanes are obviously not of great concern here in the Rocky Mountains, we are coping with destructive natural forces of our own.

Currently, two major wildfires continue to burn in Routt County. As of Friday, the Big Red Fire, which broke out Aug. 19 in Routt National Forest, was at 1,830 acres and is expected to burn until the snow flies. And, closer to home, the Deep Creek Fire, which erupted on Labor Day, is currently burning in 3,795 acres in West Routt, a mere 22 miles northwest of Steamboat Springs.

We would be seriously remiss if we neglected to acknowledge our local fire protection agencies — working in tandem with the U.S. Forest Service — for their quick, efficient responses to these two blazes. The men and women on the front lines of these fires are enormously dedicated professionals who voluntarily place themselves in harm's way to ensure the protection of people and property, and we could never thank them enough.

Interagency cooperation has been outstanding, and Routt County Emergency Management Director David “Mo” DeMorat has functioned admirably in a new environment and a new group. We also acknowledge and commend Mike Lane, city public information officer, who, in the initial days of the Deep Creek Fire, worked tirelessly with the Steamboat Today news team and other media outlets to keep county residents informed about the location, size and progress of this potentially deadly conflagration. Of all these individuals, we can honestly say we don't know what we would do without them.

But even the best, most-dedicated fire officials in the country can only do so much. The fact is, we essentially live in the heart of an expansive forest, and though we've been fortunate that neither of these fires is currently threatening homes or businesses, we may not always be so lucky. A lightning strike on Emerald Mountain or Howelsen Hill or Mount Werner — or even a cigarette butt tossed carelessly from a car window or a haphazardly extinguished campfire —could bring the flames to our very doorstep.

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For this reason, we, as residents, have a part to play, as well. It is easy to fall into a sense of complacency, but as we've seen in the past several weeks, such complacency is ill suited to the environment in which we've chosen to live. We should all recognize that wildfires can break out anywhere and at any time, and we must be prepared to protect our families and our property in the event of the unthinkable.

Readycolorado.com recommends the following preparations.

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know more than one exit route in case you have to evacuate.
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees.
  • Remove leaves and other debris from roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice per year and clean them at least once per year.
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and the home itself to help keep embers out.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Be sure to test the alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher and show them where it’s located.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
  • Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, wooden lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space.

In addition to this list, we would echo DeMorat's call for all county residents to sign up with the new Everbridge emergency notification system at member.everbridge.net/index/892807736727602#/login, which allows firefighters to immediately notify those who might be in the path of a rapidly growing fire.

Wildfires are forces of nature that exist beyond our control. We can't do much to prevent them, but we can do all in our power to prepare for them.

At issue: Nearing the close of an active fire year, two major wildfires continue to burn in Routt County.

Our view: Though we can’t prevent wildfires, we can — and should — be prepared for them.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Jim Patterson, evening editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
• Beth Melton, community representative
• Bob Weiss, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

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