Audrey Cooney

University of Colorado Boulder student wins TakeAction award for proactive wildfire preparation

Blog Post created by Audrey Cooney Employee on Feb 1, 2016
The Black Forest Fire wrecked devastation in 2013
Photo courtesy of the Denver Press


After seeing the devastation wildfires brought to his hometown of Colorado Springs, Hayden Noel decided to help his community better prepare for future wildfires. Hayden, a 20-year-old college student, decided to go door-to-door in his neighborhood to spread awareness about fire safety. With the help of his roommate, he distributed informational packets about evacuation preparation. Hayden compiled the packets himself using research from various sources including his own experiences as a Colorado Springs Fire Department Explorer, a program coordinated by the Colorado Springs Fire Department. His special delivery included instructions for making a Go-bag, directions for home escape plans and secondary escapes, communication ideas, and suggestions to ensure one’s insurance covers fires.

Hayden was particularly inspired by the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 and Black Forest Fire in 2013, both of which affected his hometown. 

“I witnessed so many families lose so much because they were unprepared and didn't know what to do. By making a simple plan you can avoid unnecessary loss,” he said. 

Hayden explains most people that he and his roommate encountered were receptive to their message. He said that many had been previously unaware of fire risks and mitigation techniques that they can adopt in their homes and on their property to improve wildfire safety. 

Hayden said his neighborhood is diverse, with a mix of families and college students. Since starting this project, his neighbors have not only become more aware of potential fire hazards, but they have also become more proactive with wildfire preparation. Members of his community have gotten into the habit of alerting their neighbors to potential dangers; and this camaraderie, he says, is just as important as the fire safety itself. 

“I think it is important to build social solidarity in communities so that we may handle catastrophic events with ease and lean on each other in times of peril… In the grand scheme of things this project was more about bringing communities together than fire preparedness. The more we are all involved in each other’s lives the more we can help each other, especially during a fire.”

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