There is much conversation about the desirability of moving to a rural retreat location. Much has been written on your site about moving to moving to the American Redoubt. But how many people really consider the drastic changes in their lifestyle when moving out of the city to a rural location? Consider one drastic change: fire protection. People living in cities with asphalt streets, fire hydrants, professionally staffed fire stations, and minimal response times may not understand the change to living in a rural area with fire protection offered by volunteer departments. I have lived in rural areas for over 25 years in the western US, including the Redoubt. I am familiar with firefighting to protect structures and wildlands, managing prescribed burns, wildfire mitigation around homes, the level of protection and response times offered by volunteer fire and ambulance departments. I have served on a volunteer fire department.
Recently, the Colorado State Forest Service started a prescribed burn in an area southwest of Denver. It was started within the prescription parameters. On Monday the weather changed and the winds were ferocious. Embers were carried out of the fire boundaries and the wildfire nightmare began. People were notified about a possible evacuation, and evacuating. However, several structures burned to the ground, two people are confirmed dead, one person is still missing as of this morning. The fire is nowhere near containment. More winds are forecast to occur this weekend.
This is not a letter to point fingers and assign blame on the state forest service. It is a letter to point out that one of the strategies to preparedness is to consider all of the things that may go wrong and plan a response to them. Wildfire is one thing that can happen in rural areas and people need to plan to defend against it, and plan to make a sudden evacuation. Even with all of the careful planning and preparation things can still go wrong. The couple featured in the article linked below had spent years doing things to defend their property against wildfire. Including a fire suppression system, foam retardant, extra water to fight fires, a generator presumably to provide power to pump the water, concrete shingles (whoever heard of concrete shingles?), clearing brush and ladder fuels for fuel load reduction. In the videos it is clear their G.O.O.D. vehicle was pointed to leave the house. Comments from their pastor indicate they were preparing to evacuate, but they didn’t make it. With all of their defenses against wildfire loss their house was a total loss. May they rest in peace.
Headline: Couple killed in wildfire was ‘packed and ready to leave’
A second report on this wildfire graphically shows cell phone video of what the evacuation during a wildfire looked like to one family. It seems the family members were in two vehicles. Listen closely and you can hear the panicked voice of a child asking the father: “Why did mommy stop?” and “Where is mommy?” The family in this story lived adjacent to the couple that perished in the fire. Depending solely on law enforcement or fire fighting officials to determine when to evacuate is wrong. We have brains and we need to use them and make decisions appropriate for our situation.
Headline: Family’s terrifying escape from wildfire caught on video.
People living in rural areas must be ready to leave on short notice and be ready to make the decision to evacuate and not wait on official notification. It could be a matter of life or death. – S.M.