The Crestone Eagle, April 2006:

Baca fire dept. held citizen fire preparedness training
Not if, but when . . .

by Ann Silver

More than a few hundred people were missing from the informative meeting held by the Baca Fire Department on March 11. Superbly well-organized and even entertaining, the few hours on a Saturday morning passed quickly. If we residents think we are prepared to face what promises to be potentially the most dangerous fire year ever in the Baca, we had better think beyond mere mitigation of our properties.
Colorado mountain towns that interface with wilderness have been suppressing fire and growing and “curing” fuel for decades, Fire Chief Peter May told the thirty residents who came to this initial class. It is not a matter of if we will have a major fire, but when.

Here are some of the questions those who think they are prepared might want to ask themselves:

1. Where is the newest and nearest evacuation route from the Baca? How will we know when to evacuate?
2. Where should Baca evacuees congregate to allow concerned family members to find them ?
3. How does one signal busy firefighters that one’s residence has been evacuated?
4. Who is the most likely person to prevent a serious fire from ever starting?
5. What are some basic tools one can carry in one’s vehicle in case one happens to be that person?
6. What should be in the bag one has ready to leave the house should one need to evacuate?
7. What is duff, and where is it found and what kind is most prone to burning?
8. What kind of architectural details and yard elements are most likely to cause you to lose your home due to wind-borne cinders?
9. How many fire trucks do we have and what is the ratio to existing homes?
10. Why do 70% of homes exposed to forest fires burn from the inside out?
11. What kind of clothing is likely to melt to one’s body in intense heat?
12. What kind of fire extinguisher works on grease, chemicals, electrical fires, and campfires?
13. Where is the safest place to stand if one can’t get out of the area altogether?
14. How much smoke and adrenaline does it take to make one dim-witted and confused?

Even if you know most of the answers to these questions, the fact that the last question is in there means we need to be super-grounded in wildfire basics. I plan to attend another class the next time it is offered in order to rehearse more adequately.

Our generous, experienced, and deeply concerned firefighters will be repeating this class in the near future. Find out when and attend. This is not just romance and heroics for the young and fit, but life and death information for every resident. When it comes to protecting our homes and lives from a wildfire, “they” can’t do it all; we must all know as much as we can to respond safely and intelligently to a serious and unpredictable threat.

Many thanks to the competent, well-trained men and women of our fire fighting community who are willing to educate us to survive the biggest “downside” to living in this wonderful place.