‘It’s not fire season, it’s a fire year’: Springs fire department encourages people to prepare for wildfires

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As the temperature starts to warm up, the Colorado Springs Fire Department encourages people to evaluate their homes and properties to see what can be done to cut back on their wildfire risk.

“Now is the time to prep for, essentially, the fire year. So anything the homeowners can do beforehand is only going to help them, their community and then the firefighters if there is an event of a wildfire,” said Ashley Whitworth, a wildfire mitigation education and outreach program coordinator for the fire department.

El Paso County recently battled the Pawnee Fire, which sparked April 7 and burned about 3 acres of land. The area that burned was just south of Colorado Springs city limits, and the area that CSFD is most concerned about.

“We target people that live in our Wildland Urban Interface, which is from the Air Force Academy all the way down to Cheyenne Mountain State Park -- mainly west of I-25 and some areas that spill over east of I-25,” Whitworth said.

She said there are more than 35,000 parcels of land in that area, which has the highest risk for wildfire. The fire department offers free on-site consultations for people who live in that area so they know how to cut back on their fire risk.

“So we’ll go out and meet with homeowners and actually walk around their property and let them know what they can do on their property to make it more defendable in the event of a wildfire,” Whitworth said.

She said the fire department does about 1,500 consultations a year. She recommends people have their property checked every five years.

“What we are looking at is really ... do they have a Class A roof? What kind of siding they have on their house and then the easiest thing for homeowners to manipulate on their property is their vegetation,” Whitworth said. “We will talk to them about the vegetation within the first 30 feet of their house and what they can do to that vegetation for fire mitigation.”

If people have firefighters out and take their advice, the department offers a free neighborhood chipping program.

“If they actually do the mitigation work on their property and stack the material curbside for our chipping crews, we’ll come through and get rid of that material free of charge for them,” Whitworth said.

People need to be prepared for a wildfire to spark at any time, according to Whitworth.

“Some of our most detrimental fires have been in our winter months here,” she said. “Just because we get snow and moisture, it’s followed by these nice, hot sunny days. So things are drying up very quick, so just because we get a little bit of accumulation doesn’t mean that we’re OK and we’re in the clear for a wildfire not to happen.”

People interested in having the fire department come out for a free on-site consultation can call 719-385-7342. People can check where their home falls on the wildfire risk map online.