From District Fire Chief Garret Ball:
The recent Cold Springs fire generated a lot of healthy conversation within our community regarding how we react to elevated fire danger ratings and how our community members can contribute to the overall mission of keeping our district safe and being prepared in the event that we do have a significant wildland fire here in Coal Creek Canyon. As Chief, I’d like to take this opportunity to share information on what we do as a fire protection district during elevated fire danger, what we ask of you during these times, as well as provide some pointers on how you can be more informed and as a result more prepared.
In the weeks leading up to the Cold Springs Fire you probably noticed our fire danger rating sign at the base of the canyon continually creeping upwards. The rating on the sign is a result of our monitoring of fuel moisture levels (how receptive to fire our vegetation is), energy release components (how hot a fire would burn under our given conditions), and detailed fire weather forecasts. You can also find our daily fire danger rating on the fire department website and our Community Resources section. While the danger rating had increased leading up to the Cold Springs Fire, all the criteria that our three counties use to go into a fire ban had not yet been met. The counties use credible scientific data from a variety of sources to determine whether they legally meet criteria necessary to enact fire bans.
Shortly after the Cold Springs Fire started, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle enacted a fire ban for Boulder County. He did so not only with consideration of the above mentioned data, but also with concern for local resource draw-down due to the Cold Springs Fire, i.e: how many local resources were committed to the Cold Springs Fire and how many local resources we would have available to combat a new wildland fire in addition to that. As soon as Boulder County went into fire ban, we asked that our entire district go into a fire ban. This is standard practice for CCCFPD, and is done with the safety of our community in mind. When one of our three counties go into a fire ban, the other counties usually follow suit but there can sometimes be a time lag for them to do so. When you see fire ban signs go up in the canyon, or notice that we have posted a fire ban on our website or Facebook page, we are asking our entire community not to have campfires, use fireworks, etc., regardless of what county you reside in. We are also asking that you assist us by being diligent in reporting any concerning activities to Boulder County Communications: 911 emergency line or (303) 441-4444 non-emergency line.
As you all know, all three of our counties enacted fire bans. With bans in place, and during periods of concerning fire weather, it is not uncommon for you to see increased activity from our Fire Department. This due to our personnel conducting “fire severity patrols” coupled with an increased number of calls for service from concerned residents. For example, since the start of the Cold Springs Fire our volunteers have spent more than 140 personnel hours patrolling the district and more than 200 personnel hours responding to calls for service. There is no need to be overly concerned if you see our fire apparatus in your neighborhood.
In terms of being informed and prepared in the event of a major emergency, we have provided many links for you to utilize on our department website in the Community Resources section. To stay informed on incidents in our area, we have posted links where you can sign up to receive emergency notifications from our three counties. These systems will notify you of significant incidents in the area and your potential need to evacuate. We also strongly encourage our residents to prepare their properties for wildland fire incidents through mitigation and have posted links to more information on how to do so. There are several skilled local mitigation companies listed in the Mountain Messenger who can assist you if needed. In terms of preparing your household for emergency evacuation, one very useful source is the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website. From this site you can download their Disaster Preparedness Guide.
Lastly, in the event that we do encounter any kind of major incident in our district, we ask that you keep in mind that we as a community have a shared emergency. This is something that you all did very well during the 2013 Flood, and incidentally was a major factor that drove me to apply to become your Fire Chief. As the floodwaters rose, there were thousands of understandable “individual emergencies.” You couldn’t get to work or get home from work, the power was out to your home, you were concerned for your pets, you were thinking about how the incident affected you personally. However, we as a community moved past that quickly and started thinking of it as a shared emergency. People started asking, “what can I do to help?”. You started seeing how you could assist your neighbors with their individual emergencies and how you could contribute to our shared emergency in a positive manner.
If we all do what we can to prepare our property and household, engage in the necessary information channels to stay informed, and prepare ourselves mentally for this concept of a shared emergency, we will be well equipped as a community to handle whatever incident comes our way.
For more additional information by county:
Garret Ball, CCCFPD Chief