Community Wildfire Preparedness Day: Have you made your plans?

For the past 12 years, southwest Colorado has celebrated Fire Prevention and Education Month every April or May, and this year is no exception.

With the number, size, and destructiveness of wildfires continuing to increase annually, others sensed the need to increase awareness as well. The National Fire Protection Association designated May 3 as Community Wildfire Preparedness Day, and in partnership with State Farm Insurance, offered a small grant to 20 communities across the United States to assist with a special project on May 3. FireWise of Southwest Colorado is honored to have had our project selected!

FireWise has planned a fuels reduction project that will take place on some City of Durango open space just south of Rio Vista Park. In partnership with the city, La Plata County, Fire Smart and the Wildfire Mitigation Professionals Association and others, we will demonstrate how to reduce hazardous fuels. City Arborist Ron Stoner will be on hand to help identify native and non-native species. Mitigation contractors will demonstrate how to limb a tree, pile slash for efficient chipping and how to safely use a chipper.

In addition to learning about fuels reduction, residents will also have a chance to visit with Colorado State Forest Service, FireWise and La Plata County personnel and learn about actions they can take to reduce their wildfire risk, improve forest health and identify beetles. At 10 a.m. there will be a "Walk and Talk" weed identification and eradication session with Rod Cook, La Plata County weed manager.

Volunteers are welcome! Whether you have one hour or three hours, put on a long sleeve shirt, grab a pair of work gloves and come join us. We'll have tools for your use and refreshments will be provided.

If you can't join us, take a few moments and look around your home, your property, and your neighborhood and see what actions you can take to become more wildfire prepared. There are endless tasks that just take a little time and elbow grease.

Here are a few suggestions - Research shows that most homes burn when embers ignite flammable materials near the home so rake mulch, pine needles, and dried leaves at least five feet away from the home. Talk to your neighbors and develop an emergency contact list, making sure to identify neighbors that might need extra help during an evacuation. Prepare a "Go Bag" or 48-hour kit in case you are evacuated. Make an evacuation plan with your family - figure out what you would want to take, where you would meet up, and what to do with your pets or livestock. Move your stash of firewood at least 30 feet away (and uphill) from your home for the summer. Chip your slash piles (and be sure to watch for information on the FireWise Chipper Rental Rebate Program that will begin on May 1).

Additional personal and community project ideas can be found at Thanks for doing your part to make our community more wildfire prepared.

Pam Wilson is the Executive Director for FireWise of Southwest Colorado. She can be reached at 970-385-8909 or The San Juan Mountains Association serves as the fiscal agent for FireWise.