(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Colorado Springs is being highlighted by the nation’s top fire leaders for the work neighbors have done in wildfire mitigation.
The Waldo Canyon Fire burned 350 homes but stopped within feet of the Cedar Heights neighborhood. The city’s fire chief says mitigation efforts played a big part in saving hundreds of additional homes.
“We are able to get suppression units up here. We were able to able to cut 40 feet of firebreak. But the only reason we could do that is because this community had done the work,” said Colorado Springs Fire Chief Randy Royal.
Cedar Heights is now an example of just how far mitigation efforts go.
“The work that you are doing here in Colorado Springs serves as a model for the nation to teach communities what right looks like. That’s why we are here,” said Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administrator.
Neighbors in Cedar Heights were working on several mitigation projects when the Waldo Canyon Fire moved into the area.
“It came out of the national Forest as an absolutely intense fire,” said Dick Standaert, a long-time Cedar Heights neighbor involved in mitigation work. “When the fire hit the mitigated areas, it ran out of fuel.”
“We had about 20, 25 people coming out with chainsaws. And as you look around the trees are limbed up, we’ve stacked the slash where the fire department will come in and actually chip for us,” said Standaert.
Mitigation gives firefighters an advantage to help them do their job safely and save homes when flames get close to neighborhoods.
“That helps us as firefighters. It keeps us safe. It keeps their homes safe,” said Royal. “We acknowledge the fact that wildfire is one of our greatest threats to our community. We’re always looking to see how we can defend it better, and we’re always looking to engage the community in mitigation efforts.”
Home wildfire mitigation includes; clearing gutters of leaves and pine needles, keeping firewood 100 feet from your home, keeping the grass cut, and clearing low tree limbs.
“We say the word mitigation, but until you see what mitigation looks like, many people don’t understand,” said Dr. Moore-Merrell. “We can prevent future fire. We can reduce the suffering and ensure that people here in Colorado and across our nation have the knowledge to protect themselves and their families.”
Colorado Springs has the largest number of homes in the state that are built within forested areas. 36,000 homes from Cheyenne Mountain to the Air Force Academy are in the highest fire-prone zones.
Fire leaders say they’re leaning on communities to engage in local efforts to help firefighters down the road.
The Colorado Springs Fire Department has several resources to help you prepare your home as wildfire season heats up.
For additional questions, you can also call the Wildfire Mitigation team at (719) 385-7493.