Last week at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond Conference, in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had the chance to attend the Waldo Canyon Fire - Success Stories and Lessons Learned Pre-and-Post-Fire breakout session. Christina Randall and Amy Sylvester of Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) http://www.springsgov.com/SectionIndex.aspx?SectionID=11 presented a recap of opportunities and obstacles experienced during the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire in the Wildland Urban Interface, foothills of Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs is home to many govenment installations, including the US Air Force Academy, NORAD, Fort Carson, and Peterson Shreiver Air Force Base. Approximately, 416,000+ residents, 36,485 residents and 28,800 acres are included in the CSFD coverage area. Extensive education and outreach programs have been in place for over 10 years. Proactive mitigation measures such as wildfire hazard assessments, cost/share fuel reduction projects and chipping programs in 110 neighborhoods had greatly reduced fuel loading in the area.
Major factors attributed to the loss of homes, in initial findings, were incidences of fuel loading, spotting/branding and an incredible ember storm which easily ignited cedar fences, roofs, and decks. The take away message is it's the "little things" or the "weakest link" which create home ignitions. Many homes lost were not directly in the path of the fire, but the wind driven, Waldo Canyon Fire reached deep into adjacent communities. For more information about home ignitions refer to http://www.wildfireoptions.com/what_is_a_home_ignition_zone.html.