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CSU experts discuss safety amid Colorado wildfire season

Wildland+Firefighter+brings+gear+back+to+the+truck+while+fighting+the+County+Road+21+Wildfire
Collegian | Milo Gladstein
A wildland firefighter brings gear back to a truck while fighting the County Road 21 wildfire Sept. 9, 2022.

As Colorado prepares for another potentially intense wildfire season, with fires already sparking in Colorado and nearby states, authorities are doubling down on safety measures to mitigate risks and ensure the safety of Colorado’s communities and forests. 

This year’s primary focus is on proactive strategies and heightened awareness. All types of wildfires have leading causes, some of these being dropped cigarettes and harsh weather conditions. While the causes and severity of wildfires are essential to understand, what is even more important is learning how individuals can prevent wildfires in forests and mitigate wildfire damage to their homes in case of emergency.

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“Fires are getting larger, they are burning more acreage and they are costing a lot more,” said Jude Bayham, associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at Colorado State University.

One of the main things causing this increase in severity is climate change. Climate change has exacerbated the frequency and intensity of wildfires, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

However, climate change is not the sole cause of wildfires. Another cause is the recent growth in fuel usage in the wildland-urban interface, which is the area where urban infrastructure meets undeveloped natural land. Together, these make up the three prime contributors to wildfires: weather conditions, fuels and vegetation. This combination provides fuel for fires to ignite and spread rapidly.

“Early detection of wildfires is very important. Signs of smoke should be investigated. If you see abnormal smoke, (you should) call 911.” –Kaitlyn Truelove, Poudre Fire Authority public education and risk reduction manager

Another concern is that agencies responsible for fighting fires and the firefighting workforce are strained due to low recruitment and possible budget cuts.

Although there is an understandable amount of public fear that comes with these conditions, there are things anyone can do to help prevent fires, even under these conditions.

One of the most critical methods of wildfire safety, as explained by Bayham, is defensible space.

“(That’s) clearing vegetation, keeping limbs from trees and things off of your roof, using fire-resistant building materials and keeping leaves and things out of your gutters,” Bayham said.

Defensible space guidelines are a top priority for those who want to be on top of fire prevention. Among other safety measures people can take, Colorado State Forest Service guidelines advise residents to mow their grass and weeds to a height of 4 inches or less, rake and remove all pine needles and other flammable debris near their home and remove tree branches from their roof. The defensible space guidelines go into much more depth about how to help prevent fire damage from every side of a house.

Guidelines on defensible space are the most important thing to adhere to, said Camille Stevens-Rumann, assistant professor of forest and rangeland stewardship. She explained other ways of preventing fire in a residential area, including replacing any wood shingles on roofs with fire-resistant materials. 

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Due to the urgency of fire prevention and safety, state and local authorities have ramped up efforts to educate residents and implement preventive measures.

Poudre Fire Authority Public Education and Risk Reduction Manager Kaitlyn Truelove said people can help protect their homes in advance from wildfire damage by “installing fire mesh screen(s), taking care of landscapes and paying attention to weather conditions.”

“Early detection of wildfires is very important,” Truelove said. “Signs of smoke should be investigated. If you see abnormal smoke, (you should) call 911.”

Reach Riley Paling at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @rileypaling.

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About the Contributor
Milo Gladstein
Milo Gladstein, Photo Director
Milo Gladstein is a fifth-year senior majoring in journalism and media communications. He is currently serving as one of the two photo directors for the 2o23-24 school year. Gladstein's work focuses on long-form stories diving deep into what it means to be human and sharing people's passion and story with the community. He did not begin as a journalism major and has worn many hats while at CSU. He began as a conservation biology major, moving to undeclared and then horticulture therapy before finally landing in the journalism department. He seeks stories about community members who are impacting the world around them in positive ways and shares those stories. Working at The Collegian has taught Gladstein about working on a team, how to develop a story and the best ways to present said stories. Most importantly, he has grown from a photographer into a photojournalist. As co-photo director, he hopes to pass that knowledge on to the next group of journalists rising through The Collegian. When not working at The Collegian or in class, Gladstein can be found reading a book or in the outdoors climbing, camping, exploring and getting lost in the mountains.

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