(COLORADO SPRINGS) — As wildfires in the west become larger, more intense and destructive, fire leaders are making stops in fire prone communities.
National fire leaders are stopping in Colorado Springs to highlight wildfire challenges and steps to reduce fire risk in local communities. The tour is bringing together local, state and national fire leaders.
“In 2022 there were more than 1.2 million structure fires across the country, not to mention the 66,000 wildfires that scorched more than 7.5 million acres. In the last year, we lost nearly 2,500 lives to fire, including 276 children and 96 firefighters,” said Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administrator.
Dr. Moore-Merrell says making sure homes and neighborhoods are fire resilient is a whole community approach.
“Because it’s not often just your home. It is the embers that spread from someone else’s home that’s burning that now ignites your home,” said Dr. Moore-Merrell. “The federal government can’t do this alone. Our firefighters, we certainly don’t have enough in this country to battle this issue.”
Colorado has seen the most destructive fires in the state’s history the last few years, including the Marshall fire in Boulder County.
“It was a grass-fed drought driven fire. And so that fire that destroyed over a thousand homes is the exact kind of fire that we’re talking about,” said Dr. Moore-Merrell.
Only three cities were chosen for this national fire education tour: Colorado Springs, Boise and Sacramento.
“Coming here to Colorado to highlight the interface, where we continuously clear what was forested areas and fire prone areas and build communities,” said Dr. Moore-Merrell.
Millions of homes are built within Colorado forests in an area known as the Wildland-Urban Interface.
The Colorado State Forest Service says this number has continued to climb, as more homes are being built in fire-prone areas.
“We have a wildfire problem as climate change continues to grow. As we build properties, we want ignition resistant materials. We want to make sure that you are understanding the proper building materials, that you’re understanding the proper spacing and your landscaping materials that are used,” said Dr. Moore-Merrell.
One simple way to see the fire risks around your home, and things you can change to make it more resilient, is by using this free Wildfire Home Safety app. All you have to do is hold your phone up to the front of your home or business and it will start highlighting areas that are the highest risks for wildfires.
“We’re doing our Living with Wildfire series right now. And education is really the biggest thing. We want to try and get on the front side of fires. How are we ready? Do we have a plan if a fire does start in the area? One of the big things that we always try and push is early reporting if you see smoke or fire,” said Capt. Mike Smaldino, Colorado Springs Fire Department.