Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Schriever Sentinel

Waldo Canyon fire teaches lesson of preparedness

By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes

50th Space Wing Public Affairs

As the warm season comes to Colorado Springs and the Waldo Canyon fire still burns in residents’ minds, it is essential for people to be prepared and keep fire prevention safety at the ready.

The Waldo Canyon fire was the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history, with 346 homes destroyed and approximately 18,000 acres burned.

“What the Waldo Canyon fire taught us, first and foremost is the importance of preparedness,” said Paul Macek, Schriever Fire Emergency Services fire inspector. “During the worst days of the fire, residents in the evacuation areas had only minutes to grab what they could and leave. As destructive as the fire was, proper preparations and planning by fire, law enforcement, government, volunteer organizations and the public prevented even greater loss and destruction.”

Macek said fire department officials learned firsthand how quickly conditions change during these events. The fire changed direction many times in the first few days due to weather and wind.

“Colorado has a very dry, warm climate, which are the two primary factors in [determining] wildfire danger,” Macek said. “As we saw last year, hot, dry days can turn a small fire into a disaster very quickly. We are also in the middle of a drought, which only adds to the already dry conditions.”

The Schriever fire department provided the following home fire prevention safety tips:

• Practice good fire prevention in your home.

• Create a safety zone around your home by removing trash, brush, weeds or dry vegetation.

• Never leave grills unattended and always ensure they are completely extinguished.

• Install a smoke detector and keep spare batteries on hand.

• Stay aware of the weather.

• Plan ahead.

• Have an emergency evacuation kit, including emergency water and food, flashlights, first aid kit, essential medicines, cash, credit cards and sturdy shoes.

• Keep important documents, such as marriage and birth certificates, insurance policies and vehicle registrations easily accessible in case of emergency evacuation.

• Have a predetermined evacuation place so family members know where to meet if you are separated (a real possibility when adults are at work and children are at school).

• Register with the Emergency Notification System, also known as reverse 911 at www.elpasoteller911.org.

• In the unlikely event you are told to evacuate during a wildfire, do so immediately. Do not try to return home until officials have determined it is safe to do so.

Additionally, Tech. Sgt. Tawanna Sellars, 50th Space Wing ground safety NCO in charge, also provided workplace fire prevention safety tips.

“Regardless of whether you work in an administrative area or industrial area, fire safety should always be a concern,” Sellars said. “Keep your area free of waste paper, trash and other combustible items. Check electrical cords; ensure they are not damaged. Don’t overload your circuits and turn off all electrical appliances at the end of each day.”

Macek echoed the same sentiment and said the Waldo Canyon fire showed everyone how devastating fire can be. He encouraged everyone to practice fire safety in the home and at work.

“The Waldo Canyon fire directly affected everyone in the Colorado Springs area and was a prime example of the importance of fire prevention and awareness,” Macek said. “Knowing what steps you can take to prevent wildfires, paying attention to weather and planning ahead can be the difference between staying safe and becoming a victim.”

Contact the Fire Prevention office at 567-3377 or 567-5994 or your local fire department for assistance.

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