The Marshall Fire shook me to my core. So much so, I hesitated to write this month’s article for S&S until I realized that many of us may feel exactly the same way! We have been bracing for a wildfire event in the mountains forever and to watch a suburban area go up in flames, fanned by 100mph winds, was surreal. My first thought: If a Target store, surrounded by a parking lot, can burst into flames, then who am I really kidding about the relative safety of my mountain home? We talk a lot about the effectiveness of a 30 foot buffer between the conifers on our property and the structure of our home. The truth is, in certain conditions, buffers may not be as effective. The reality is: We must take precautions and prepare for wildfire. If the conditions are not extreme, then we have a better chance of saving our homes. If the conditions are extreme, then we may lose our homes, despite our hard work to harden them against wildfire.
It reminds me of the time I went to the Royal Gorge in Colorado and learned about the fire that came up to the edge of the gorge from the side opposite the funicular railroad that took tourists down to the bottom and back up again. There were 52 structures that made up the tourist attraction in June of 2013. The gorge is 300 feet wide at its top. ten times the 30 foot buffer we currently herald. But, because of the winds, and because of the 1200 foot drop of the canyon walls, ember showers were able to reach the other side at the bottom, catching the funicular railroad on fire, and then following its tracks up to then consume 48 out of the 52 structures that made up the attraction. Crazy! Information like this can really mess with your head!
Does that mean we should throw in the proverbial towel? Should we give up on our long-time fire mitigation efforts? Should we move far, far away into some concrete bunker in a land devoid of vegetation? NO! Let us not lose heart. Let our resolve instead be strengthened by this lesson in Nature’s will. So, maybe our homes are in more danger if the winds are high. Or maybe we have a tougher struggle ahead if the ground gets too dry. Conditions do matter. Wildfire will be just as scary as we all think it will be. But we must do whatever we can to keep our mitigation efforts up! It could be exactly what saves our home in an event like that. We are Mountain Folk. We are Coal Creek Canyonites. We are no sissies! We know what we need to do: Clear slash, grasses, and combustibles like firewood away from our houses. Make sure gutters are metal, not vinyl, with no pine needles in them! Window screens should also be metal mesh, not plastic. Keep a 5 foot perimeter around your home of bare dirt, or otherwise nothing burnable (like vegetation). Take stock. Make differences. Every little bit counts. This is not time to give up. We must keep our efforts strong. You will see Saws & Slaws, and our sister org Gilpin Axe & Snax, working hard again this summer. Help us when you can. Ask us for help if you need it. We are all in this together and we really are “A Stronger Community through a Healthier Forest”, just like it says on those coveted orange shirts. Reach out to us on Facebook, or email us at email@example.com. (Linda has a new number: (720) 326-7739). Thanks for your help and support!
FEATURED VOLUNTEERS: Drew and Bobbie Steffe
What’s your favorite Tree? Drew: Ponderosa, Bobbie: Blue Spruce
What neighborhood do you live in? Hilltop Neighborhood
If you had to evacuate right now what would you grab? Laptop, dog, and ‘bug out’ items from the garage (we have some items staged, such as photos/negatives and important papers (birth certificates, etc) in the garage.
How did you find out about saws and slaws? Linda Martin
What motivates you to devote your time to fire mitigation with Saws and Slaws? D: Reducing fuels to make our neighborhood safer. B: To help keep our neighborhood mitigated so that our home and theirs are more likely to survive if/when a fire comes through.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten at the Potluck? D: Cold watermelon, B: My cabbage crunch slaw on top of a veggie burger.
What’s your favorite thing about Coal Creek Canyon? D: Our people!, B: I love living up in the mountains yet being close to Arvada, Boulder, Golden and Denver.
Safety Tip of the Month: Clear Out the Crevices! In light of the devastating Marshall Fire at the end of December, we wanted to remind everyone about how important it is to clean out the crevices where pine needles and flammable materials gather. These piles are often found in gutters, in joints between two sections of a roof, and on the ground next to the house. When we have wind combined with forest fires, it is the small flying embers that can travel for miles that frequently will start a structure fire. Embers flow like water down a hill. They travel the same ways a pine needle does which is why they end up in the same spots. A small ember combined with a small pile of flammable material is enough to start a structure fire. So take the time to keep those areas clean of combustible materials to help protect your home. Pick them out by hand, sweep or blow them away so you can gather them and remove them. It is a constant effort as there are more pine needles where those came from but doing the work is well worth the effort!