The Manitou Springs Fire Department is offering free property assessments to residents as a way to reduce wildfire risk in the canyon. The city is "extremely prone" to wildfire, according to MSFD, and officials say implementing basic mitigation could be the difference between a savable property or one lost to wildfire.
Jeremy Van der Merwede with the MSFD said the assessments include suggestions about cutting back vegetation, maintaining shingles and general upkeep, among other things. He also said they'd check out the property for things that may not even be on the homeowner's radar.
"An example would be wherever you see snow piling up in the winter or leaves blowing and piling up during the fall, that's also where embers tend to go during a wildfire," Van der Merwede said.
He said that's something that tends to surprise people, as many use those areas to store wood piles or grills and propane tanks.
The MSFD only recommends mitigation measures, as the department doesn't have the staffing to perform the work. But Van der Merwede said reducing risk is easier than one may think.
"I actually had an assessment done (recently) for a property and this individual's plan was they wanted to stucco their house and they wanted to do some basic mitigation and then just adding reflective and well-seen addressing, and doing the work that they did dropped their rating from very extreme to moderate to slightly high," he said.
A map of the city, put together by the department, shows most structures are at a high to extreme risk for a wildfire event. It ranks parcels of land using colors - dark green being a low risk, yellow being a high risk, and red being an extreme risk.
Van der Merwede said it's not a question of "if'' a wildfire will affect Manitou Springs, it's a matter of "when." That's due to the city's location in the wildland urban interface with homes very close to trees, bushes and shrubs.
"And because of that, coupled with the terrain being steeper, the box canyons, the lack of good mitigation… all of that encompasses why the majority of Manitou is in the yellow and red zones," he said, referring to the wildfire risk map.
The city of Manitou Springs is also sending out postcards to residents to sign up for emergency alerts as well as other literature about evacuation planning and what to do in the event of a wildfire.
Assessments can be requested on the department's business line at (719) 685-1444.
Protect you and your property with these steps from the Manitou Springs Fire Department
- Maintain your lot and building. Clear gutters, eaves and roof debris. Rake leaves. Check siding for cracks. Keep lawn hydrated and well-maintained. Move flammable materials and wood away from structures.
- Repair broken windows. Replace windows with energy-efficient windows.
- Replace shingles with Class A shingles—check with your insurance agent.
- Install a sprinkler system that can be set up outside in the event of a fire.
- Talk to and collaborate with your neighbors to reduce hazardous fuels.
- Contact the Fire Department for consultation on your property's specific vulnerabilities.
- Consult a certified wildfire mitigation professional.
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