Officials prepare for fires

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It's too early to predict this year's wildland fire potential, but officials aren't wasting any time in their efforts to prepare residents for what could transpire.

The Routt County Wildland Fire Council is hosting Wildfire Awareness Week, May 9 to 15, a week of fire education activities and public service announcements officials hope will encourage residents to minimize the potential damage of wildland fires.

The timing of Wildfire Awareness Week works well for Routt County because many people will be out working in their yards and around their homes in early May, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue education coordinator Jacqui Campbell said.

"We felt like this was a really good time to talk to homeowners because it's the time of year they're starting to clean up," Campbell said.

Some of the tips fire officials will give area residents focus on creating a defensible space around their homes. Steps homeowners can take to create an effective defensible space include removing vegetation such as dead grass and leaves within 30 feet of their homes, removing firewood within 50 feet of their homes, removing tree branches and limbs from chimneys, rain gutters and roofs and mowing grasses, reeds and thin shrubs near their homes.

Officials also encourage residents to display their home addresses clearly so they can be located and identified by emergency responders. Residents also should create evacuation plans and make sure their families are familiar with them.

As part of Wildfire Awareness Week, fire engines and Smokey Bear will visit Ace at the Curve and Wal-Mart from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 14. Campbell encouraged people to stop by and talk with firefighters, get information about wildland fires and introduce their children to Smokey Bear.

"We just wanted to take this opportunity to heighten people's awareness as we head into wildfire season," said Lynn Barclay of the Bureau of Land Management.

Currently, Northwest Colo--rado isn't considered as high a risk for wildland fires as other drought-plagued areas such as the Pacific Northwest, South Dakota and Wyoming. Local land and fire officials say the danger for wildland fires in this region will increase or decrease depending on the amount and timing of spring moisture.

However, Routt County Com--missioner Doug Monger reminded residents that regardless of spring precipitation, the high number of dead trees and dry fire fuels always will pose a fire danger for the county and surrounding areas, particularly as bark beetle infestations continue to increase the amount of dead timber in local forests.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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