Jefferson county officials say an elderly couple was killed in the still uncontrolled Lower North Fork Fire. The couple was found in a home in an area within the fire zone that remains accessible only to fire officials. People who die in wildfires and house fires are typically killed in three different ways: by thermal burns, carbon monoxide poisoning or because of a medical condition like asthma or a heart attack.
People in the fire area should understand that there is a smoke advisory in the burn area, carbon monoxide displaces oxygen carried by red blood cells throughout the body and can kill. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a more common cause of death than people burning to death in fires.
Colorado’s fire season typically occurs May through September, but the lack of snowfall, coupled with higher-than-normal temperatures and high winds, lead experts to predict that Colorado’s wildfire season will be early, active and potentially dangerous.
In 2011, Colorado witnessed over 1,200 fires that scorched more than 160,000 acres, and in September 2010, 167 homes in the Boulder area were burned in the Fourmile Canyon Fire. But many local residents have already taken steps to reduce their wildfire risk. Using proven principles for wildfire safety, 35 Colorado communities have participated for several years in the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program, which emphasizes community involvement and helps residents learn how to do their part to keep their homes and property safer from wildfire.
Participating communities include numerous homeowner associations in Colorado Springs and Breckenridge, as well as two of the very first recognized Firewise communities in the nation — the Perry Park Metro District in Larkspur and Genesee in Golden. From Windcliff in Estes Park in the north central part of the state on the Front Range, to Santa Fe Trail Ranch in Trinidad, near the New Mexico border, communities all over the state are using Firewise principles to become safer. A list of all Colorado Firewise-recognized sites can be found on the Firewise website, www.firewise.org.
Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, cleaning your property of debris and maintaining your landscaping may save your home. Below are additional actions you can take to reduce the risk of your home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire:
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
- Create a “fire-free” area within five feet of the home, using non-flammable landscaping materials such as rocks, pavers and/or high-moisture content annuals and perennials.
- Remove dead vegetation from under your deck and within 10 feet of the house.
- Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks, dry vegetation) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
- If you have trees on your property, prune so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
- Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings collect on your yard – dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
- When planting, choose slow-growing, carefully placed shrubs and trees so the area can be more easily maintained.
- Landscape with native and less-flammable plants. Your state forestry agency or county extension office can provide plant information.
- Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
- Use Firewise construction materials for decks, porches and fences.