“We are calling on the community to help us, so we can help you.”

By Simon Crittle

Evergreen Fire Rescue (EFR) is urging local homeowners to “help us help you” ahead of the coming summer wildfire season.

EFR wants people to remove trees and other flammable material from around their homes, which will, in turn, help law enforcement officers and firefighters perform their jobs safely and evacuate people in the event of wildfire.

The ask comes as a new survey of local residents found seven in 10 people “strongly agreed” that homes and structures in the district are at risk of being destroyed by summer fires.

“When a wildfire occurs in the Evergreen Fire Protection District, deputy sheriffs and the fire department stand ready to evacuate people and protect infrastructure,” says EFR Chief Mike Weege. “But we can’t do it alone. There are more than 12,000 homes in Evergreen, and our resources are limited. “We are calling on the community to help us, so we can help you. What have you done to prepare for wildfire? You need to prepare your home and think about an evacuation plan,” Weege says.

“While fire mitigation can seem daunting, even small steps like removing low hanging limbs and clearing brush could be the difference between saving or losing lives and property,” states Weege.

Chief Weege says homeowners should clean out gutters before summer arrives and keep roofs free from debris. Also, try to create and maintain a 5-foot non-combustible zone including materials such as rock or plain dirt around the house.

“If you have any bark or woody ground covering around your home, there’s a significant risk it could ignite from embers during a wildfire. Best remove it and replace with rock or other non-flammable materials,” Weege says.

Chief Weege added that Evergreen residents should think ahead about what they’d do if they were told to evacuate. “Do you have a plan? Do you have a ‘go bag’ at the ready? Do you have a place to meet up with loved ones? Where would you stay if you had to leave Evergreen during an evacuation. Good to know the answers to these questions ahead of time.”

The good news is the survey, which sampled 242 people and was conducted in mid-April, found eight in 10 people had removed low hanging tree limbs from around their homes and structures, while seven in 10 regularly remove leaf and other vegetation litter from their gutters. Some six in 10 people said they had an evacuation plan.

However, only five in 10 people had cleared trees and other vegetation from within 30 feet of their home, the recommended distance for greater protection.

EFR recently set up a “Fuels Module,” which is comprised of 10 paid professionals who are working hard to thin wooded areas throughout the district. The department also runs a “Chipping Program” providing a chipping service to help local homeowners dispose of slash.

In the meantime, EFR will be conducting fee-based “home assessments” in coming months and is already working with communities to prepare plans for neighborhoods and subdivisions in the event of wildfire.

The plans are known as “Community Wildfire Protection Implementation Plans”/ Plan Units and involve bringing neighbors together to create defensible space around homes, structures, roadways and adjacent lands. The survey found only two in 10 people in Evergreen had worked with neighbors and the broader community to clear trees and vegetation in their neighborhoods.

For more information on how you can help, visit evergreenfirerescue.com or call 303.674.3145.