As the one-year anniversary of the Marshall Fire in Boulder County approaches, and since a fire can occur at any time, fire officials recommend that the Boulder community go over fire safety to know what each person can do in the case of a wildfire. Here’s what you need to know.
The first order of business is to ensure that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and operable in each home. According to Marya Washburn, the public information officer for Boulder Fire-Rescue, Boulder community members need to check that they set up these tools so they can warn when smoke or carbon monoxide is in the home. It is also advised to keep the contact information of a fire restoration company in case your property gets damaged by a house fire or wildfire.
Boulder residents can also opt into Everbridge, the “reverse 911” alert system that notifies community members of local emergencies, including fires.
“Once your smoke alarms are set and you are signed up for reverse 911, make sure you have what you need to be able to leave your home quickly and safely,” said Washburn.
Washburn discussed how each home should have a “go bag” packed and ready to go in case of an emergency. The city of Boulder’s website features a list of items to put in an emergency bag and other fire safety tips. The list includes basics such as water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, and important documents.
Another fire safety measure to include in the home is to ensure that all exits are accessible.
“Some people like to pile things in front of emergency exits, which can be a problem when it comes the time that you need to use that exit,” said Washburn. “A little bit of time preparing how you are going to get out when you need to evacuate your home makes the evacuation less stressful, and you can drive away from your home knowing you did everything that you could.”
The Marshall Fire last December destroyed nearly 1,100 buildings, including homes and commercial buildings. Washburn said the fire shifted the community’s perspective on wildfires – specifically, how quickly they can travel and when they can start.
Carrie Haverfield, the information specialist for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department, said, “The Marshall Fire was somewhat unique in that it was a grass fire that turned into an urban conflagration. That is something we hadn’t seen in Boulder County but has been seen in other communities.”
This week, the National Weather Service Boulder office issued four red flag warnings. This warning requires warm temperatures, low humidity and strong winds, which increase the risk of wildfires.
“The Marshall Fire took place on a day when we had a weather event that was in the 99th percentile. We had the equivalent of Category 2 hurricane force winds,” Haverfield said. “Unfortunately, once the fire started, stopping the spread was almost impossible given the circumstances.”
The fire department is changing its messaging to the community to help educate it about these kinds of fires and how to prepare for them.
“It’s always different when these things happen in your community and your neighborhood,” Washburn said. “Now more than ever, we want to make sure we are ready for it and help everyone learn how to best be prepared for it.”
Washburn and Haverfield said it is essential to prepare for a fire and evacuation at any time of the year, not just in fire season. With climate change, more drought and higher temperatures, wildfires are more likely to occur during times of the year that Boulder has not often seen before.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Addison Luetke at Addison.Luetke@colorado.edu.