COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs City Council voted unanimously 9-0 on a new ordinance covering emergency evacuation procedures and plans. Several wildfire safety advocates were highly disappointed after the vote.
In fact, City Council received hundreds of emails from people of Westside Watch, saying the new ordinance is inadequate.
The ordinance requires the city fire staff to divide the city into evacuation zones based on roads, topography and educate the public on those evacuation zones.
Colorado is no stranger to wildfires, but with all the preparing in the world you truly don’t know how you will react until you are put into an evacuation. “It’s not a question of if there will be another natural disaster, it’s a question of when, where, and how prepared we will be,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.
In Colorado Springs, that fear is all too real. “My wife and I were directly impacted by the Waldo Canyon fire,” said Colorado Springs homeowner Dave Talbot.
Since then community members have advocated for better evacuation planning. “Where our home is, where my future business is and decide that we really need to understand all the elements of what it takes to live in Colorado with wildfires,” Amy Kunstle, Colorado Springs business and homeowner said.
In April, Kunstle lost her mountain home in Beulah. Despite that, her family chooses to stay in Southern Colorado. “I think every person needs to ask themselves if there is a fire, what information do I need to know to be able to be apart of a process to get everybody out safely,” Kunstle said.
The new ordinance requires a plan that covers any kind of hazard or incident, with predetermined evacuation zones that take into account terrain, roads, and neighborhoods. “This is better than what we have and has a rational process,” Wayne Williams, Colorado Springs Councilman said.
Community members with Westside Watch shot down the proposal because it does not require evacuation modeling and exit route planning, that would apply to new developments and existing infrastructure. “We aren’t anti-development but we are anti-burning in cars,” Dana Duggan, Westside Watch said.
Emergency officials say modeling for evacuation times can’t account for all potential variables like weather conditions, but they will be prepared. “We are going to increase our resources, we are going to increase our skills set and we are going to make sure that we are ready to go,” Randy Royal, Colorado Springs Fire Chief said.
With the vote to approve the ordinance, City Council said they will revisit community members concerns. The ordinance requires a second reading and vote to be finalized.