Did you know?
A true story:
As part of the support Huerfano County received in the aftermath of the Spring Creek Fire a meeting was organized by the Community Mitigation Assistance Team whose purpose was to help communities digest what has happened to them as a result of a fire and how best to prepare for the next fire.
During a visit to Majors Ranch, while driving through our community and discussing our future with two members of that team- both from Colorado; one a professional wild land firefighter and the other an eminently successful Firewise leader- we came to a private gate. It was not unlike many entrances here in Majors Ranch.
Jeremy, the driver, turned the engine off, turned to us and spoke:
“ If I’m sitting here in the big red truck (full sized Class III fire truck used in fighting structural fires) with responsibility for the lives of the 5 firefighters with me, I have to make a decision. Look around; there are no house numbers, there’s no house to be seen, and there’s a wall of vegetation on either side of the driveway. Now, for me as the crew leader, there are two choices:
IF there is time, I will have one of my crew walk down the driveway to see IF it is safe for my men and my equipment and also to see IF there is a house there and IF that house can be defended.
IF there is NO time, because the fire is close and threatening, and in the absence of any other information, that’s when I earn my pay. I will and must decide to protect the lives of my men and the equipment, turn around and leave this questionable location, and move to a home I KNOW we can defend.”
More than anything I learned as a result of this summer’s fire, this lesson from that moment impacted me more than any other.
My house has a defensible perimeter.
A reflective house number marks my gate.
BUT, the view down my driveway was very limited and many branches were clearly too close to its edge or hanging over it. Add to that a few Rabbitbrush and a several seedlings that will eventually become a problem and I realized that an obvious fire threat had been overlooked.
I don’t want the driver of a fire truck to have to pause at my gate and then make the decision to turn around when that time comes.
This process of structural triage used to be called Red Rock/ Green Rock (Unsafe-don’t go / Safe-go). Today tape is used to the same purpose.
You don’t want either red tape or red rocks at your gate.
Stand at the entrance to your driveway preferably about sunset when the light begins to fail. Imagine you are a crew chief at the wheel of a full sized crew cab fire truck which just arrived and is now sitting at idle where you stand. The men and women in that truck are here to do their job - saving lives and homes.
Picture that a wall of flame now runs all along CR 520; you smell the smoke as a strong breeze blows from the west. Many individual trees in Phase 2 are already torching so you sense that there isn’t much time. Now you can see the smoke. You think to yourself…. there are just too many trees.
No light comes from your house; your family evacuated yesterday. But the truck’s headlights illuminating your driveway tell the crew what they need to know……………. .…. What do they reveal?
What does the crew chief decide?
Now is when you get to write the rest of this story.
Is your driveway a hazard or does it offer safe passage for you leaving and this crew arriving?
Mitigation is hard work. Cleaning up a house and memories destroyed by fire is sad, miserable work.
Firewise Committee, Majors Ranch
Questions?? We are here to help.
Gerry Benesky: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Malone: email@example.com
Driveway Address Markers