Preparing for the worst

When a family loses it's home to a fire, it is the job of Red Cross volunteers to assist them in recovering from their material and emotional losses. Now Red Cross volunteers' roles have expanded to h

When a family loses it's home to a fire, it is the job of Red Cross volunteers to assist them in recovering from their material and emotional losses.

Now Red Cross volunteers' roles have expanded to help educate people on taking the steps necessary to avoid losing their home to a wildland fire.

The Red Cross recently joined forces with the Bureau of Land Management to assist BLM officials in "Community Wildland Fire Preparedness/Education."

"Our job is not only to respond to disasters but to help people prepare for them," said Deb Lowe, branch manager of the Northwest Colorado Red Cross. "We're going to use our volunteers as legs to get this information out."

Through the BLM, Red Cross volunteers will be trained in the use of fire-resistant construction material, landscaping and maintenance to reduce the risks of wildland fire. Volunteers will visit area homes and study the existing fire potential for each site.

Upon completion of the assessments, recommendations will be shared with the landowner, describing how to reduce the amount of combustible material around residences and buildings and make the site more defensible against wildland fire.

The goal is to have more people carrying the message of wild fire mitigation to people in fire-threatened communities, said Lynn Barclay, fire mitigation education specialist with the Bureau of Land Management.

"It takes effort on the part of the homeowner to create this defensible space around the home," Barclay said.

Defensible space issues include:

Access in and out of the property.

Proper fire-safe building materials.

Water availability.

"We're asking homeowners to help us help them give homes the best chance they can to survive a wild fire," Barclay said.

"If they've done this they will provide a safer, more defensible zone around their homes and this will help firefighters make

a stand in the case of a wild fire."

Fire mitigation is especially important this year, she said.

"We're in the third year of a drought," she said. "People need to be careful. They're not forecasting any relief in the near future for us."

For more information about the new partnership and how to prepare homes for wildland fires people can call Lowe at the Red Cross at 824-2661 or Barclay at 826-5096.

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