Spring Wildfire Preparedness and a Challenge

Irene Shonle, Director CSU Extension in Gilpin County. Even though we just got a beautifully wet spring snow, it’s time to think about getting ready for fire season. This early moisture could cause lush grass growth, which can dry out in a very short period of time if the weather changes and thus create flashy fuels for lightning to ignite.

Think about preparations on two levels – one is your personal preparedness to evacuate, and the other is getting your home as ready as possible to withstand a fire. Some top preparedness suggestions are below. The Gilpin Extension website has grab lists, sample communication plans, defensible space quick guides, and videos that go into more depth on these subjects:


For evacuation preparedness, create a “grab list” of all of the important documents and irreplaceable items that you would want to take with you in the event of a fire. It’s critical that you do this in advance, rather than when you get the call to evacuate, because you will not be in a frame of mind to make good decisions in the event of a fire. Put this list somewhere where you can readily find it.

Take pictures or create lists of all the possessions in your house to make filing insurance claims easier. On that note, make sure your insurance is up to date and factors in replacement value. Create a family communication plan – what will happen if all the phone circuits are down or jammed, and you are at work, and your spouse is at home and your kids are at school? Where will you meet? Designate a person outside the fire zone with whom you can leave messages.

Create an evacuation kit for each member of the family (don’t forget pets). Make a plan for livestock, if you have them.

For your home, think about both defensible space and structural ignitability. Remove all evergreens within 15-30 feet from your house (including the ground juniper). Put non-flammable material (pavers, gravel) for 3-5 feet from the house. Make sure no branches extend over the roof or are within 10 feet of the chimney. The roof should be metal or class A asphalt shingles, and ideally, the siding should be non-combustible.

Defensible space is not a one-time event. We are challenging everyone to do three things that need to be done every year: move firewood 30 feet from your house, rake needles and leaves from corners and crannies around your house and deck/porch, and clean out your gutters. These easy tasks will help harden your house from an ember storm.

The CSU Gilpin County Extension Office is located at the Exhibit Barn, 230 Norton Drive, Black Hawk, CO 80422, 303-582-9106, www.extension.colostate.edu/gilpin. Colorado State University Extension provides unbiased, research-based information about, horticulture, natural resources, and 4-H youth development. Colorado State University Extension is dedicated to serving all people on an equal and nondiscriminatory basis.