Homeowners: Defend against and prepare for wildfires

DENVER -- Wildfires have already scorched parts of southern Colorado and the dangers are likely to increase as temperatures rise.

With moisture levels falling short this year, the incidents incidences of dry conditions will also play a factor into risks of fires.

One of the first steps Coloradans should take is to remain aware of weather conditions while waiting for direction from officials.

Watches, warnings and evacuation notices are science-based predictions that are intended to provide adequate time for evacuation. People who delay leaving might find themselves trapped.

The National Weather Service issues a fire weather watch when potentially dangerous fire conditions are possible over the next 12 to 72 hours.

A fire weather warning or red flag warning are issued when fire danger exists and weather patterns that support wildfires are either occurring or expected to occur within 24 hours.

Whether or not a fire is imminent, residents should stay informed by monitoring local weather reports and signing up for text or email alerting systems which may be available from local government websites.

It's also smart to have a plan should the power to your home cut out.

In order to keep abreast of local alerts, have extra batteries on hand for a radio and cellphones. It's also wise to have a hand-crank radio or cellphone charger.

Should an evacuation order be issued, officials emphasize the most significant thing to do to keep yourself out of danger is to exit immediately, leaving behind possessions, if necessary.

Stuff can be replaced, lives cannot.

If you need to evacuate by car, be sure it is fueled and in reliable condition. Emergency supplies and a change of clothes should be kept in your vehicle.

If you expect to be out of your home for an extended period of time, come up with a plan ahead of time to know where you can stay and for how long.

The American Red Cross often erects shelters for evacuees; a Shelter Finder app can be downloaded ahead of time.

If you have pets and plan to go to a shelter, call ahead to find out if they can also be housed.

Communication is key during emergencies and it's advised that family members practice how to contact one another in case a dangerous situation arises.

Keep important numbers written down and readily available, not just kept in the contacts of your phone. A reliable helper out of town might be easier to reach than people within your area.

If you expect to evacuate, store supplies so you can grab them quickly; know in advance what else you will need to take and pack them in a go bag.

When making a list of necessary items to keep with you, it's smart to follow the "Five P's of Evacuation:"

  • People: Those in your household and, if possible, pets and other animals should remain a priority.
  • Prescriptions: Medications, with dosages, medical equipment, batteries, power cords, eyeglasses and hearing aids should be kept with you in order to stay prepared on the go
  • Papers: Including important documents - hard copies and/or electronic copies saved on external hard drives may be necessary to keep with you as you prepare to leave your home.
  • Personal needs: Think ahead of the items you require everyday, such as clothes, food, water, first aid kit, cash and items for people with
    disabilities.
  • Priceless items: Only if you have extra time, decide what memories you'd like to take with you, such as pictures.

Should you find yourself in the terrifying situation of being trapped in your home, call 911 before all else.

Turn on the lights to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.

Keep doors, windows, vents, and fire screens closed. Keep your doors unlocked.

Move flammable materials such as  curtains and furniture away from windows and sliding glass doors. Fill sinks and tubs with water.

Stay inside, away from outside walls and windows.

In order to reduce the chances that fire spreads quickly on your property, take proper steps to safeguard your home.

The measures include clearing away leaves, needles and other debris from the roof, gutters, deck and around the foundation.

Remove vines from the exterior of your home and prune branches and shrubs within 15 feet of chimneys, stove pipes or structures.

Replace highly flammable vegetation, such as pine, eucalyptus, juniper and fir trees with plants that do not burn as readily.

Less flammable options include trees with low sap or resin content like many deciduous species, or those that have high moisture content, like succulents.

Stack firewood at least 100 feet away from the structure.

Identify and maintain water sources, such as hydrants, ponds, swimming pools, and wells, and ensure that they are accessible
to the fire department.

Have garden hoses that are long enough to reach any area of the house and other structures. When evacuating, leave hoses connected to a water source so that they are available for firefighters.

Ready.gov has released a lengthy list of ways to stay safe, should a blaze burn near their home.

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