Janet Day: Getting ready for wildfire season
April 28, 2008
Smoke Signals. Have you looked at the wildfire protection report for the eastern part of the county? It was made available last week (www.winterparkgov.com) and should be required reading for anyone who lives in, owns a home in or visits this area. And it should scare us all into action.
The bottom line is:
– We have a lot of dead trees and live in a pretty dry climate – not news, but worth repeating.
– Many of our most populated areas are many miles and minutes from a fire station while others have no water reserves for fighting fires.
– The Valley is awash in contradictory signage or nearly invisible signage on roads, driveways and homes (meaning delayed response time from emergency services)
– We have no coordinated response plan, evacuation routes or communications programs in place for dealing with a catastrophic fire.
Every homeowner should be alarmed. Every homeowners association should be pushed to action. Every governmental agency should get to work. Everyone needs to share the responsibility – property owners, governments and their agencies, homeowner associations and developers.
Let’s get some consistent signage distinguishing roads from driveways – signs that identify roads by both name and legal route number, and identify the correct property address. Homeowners and associations need to replace or supplement the cute cabin-style etched wood or painted house signs with reflective ones that can be easily read in the dark or in smoky conditions.
An unscientific survey of mine ” walking around the Winter Park Ranch neighborhood ” found that about one in six homes had the address number on the front of the building. But fewer than one in 15 had any signage at the road indicating the house number. Of those with road-side signage, only a few were reflective. Most condo developments, including mine, have nothing at the street entrance to indicate the address number or street name. Sunset Ridge fared even worse with not a single sign on the roadways where I was walking a couple days ago and houses set too far back to have any numbers on them visible from the roads. Think UPS has a hard time finding you? Imagine a fire truck in the dark.
The street-naming issue is a problem. Do you tell friends you live at the corner where two roads named after mountain wildlife intersect? Street signs may or may not list the road names you gave your friends. Many green county road signs simply show the road number. Some signs in unincorporated areas show the street name and the route number, but not many, while new intersections aren’t signed at al. As the snow melts, I’ve found dozens of signs in my neighborhood have been knocked over by snow plows or errant drivers.
Then there’s the haphazard property numbering, especially in condo developments where Unit 7 can sometimes be found between units 3 and 4 or building H is adjacent to building B. Sub-divided lots end up with equally peculiar addressing.
Sequential numbering could make the difference between saving a home or losing it to fire. Since we don’t have mail delivery, how hard could it be to re-number the chopped up mess that has become eastern Grand County?
Evacuation and escape routes need to be formalized, given to all residents and posted in all rental properties. Road signs similar to those depicting snow emergency routes in urban areas should identify the fire evacuation routes throughout the valley. Water cisterns need to be installed, filled and maintained in those areas with no access to water for fighting fires.
And we’ve got to clean up properties with excessive dead trees providing all that potential fuel for fires. Areas listed in the report as the highest priorities for fuel reduction along access corridors are Winter Park Highlands, Meadow Creek, Hurd Creek, Hamilton Creek, County Road 8, Arapahoe Road, Beaver Mountain Estates, Ice Box Estates and Winter Park Ranch – pretty much where most of us in the east end of the county live.
Cleaning it up requires cooperation among all property owners, and that’s the tricky part. No where in the report does it address ways to deal with property owners who don’t manage their property. What do we do about the neighbors whose lots are filled with dead trees, both upright and on the ground?
Fire danger isn’t all those nasty pine beetles have wrought. The mess they’ve left is going to affect the spring melt and what already is poised to be an epic runoff. Dead trees don’t absorb groundwater, leaving the soil more saturated and prone to flooding and eroding. And needle-less trees don’t filter the sun, leaving the snow beneath to melt faster and run off quicker. Flooding all along the Fraser River and its tributaries could be a big problem in the coming weeks.
All this fear of fire and flood made me pretty tense, so I decided to take advantage of the mud season special for locals at the Ranch Creek Spa at Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Through May 5, proof of local residency gets you one treatment for $75 or two for $139.
The new facility constructed just up the hill from the old one is everything a mountain spa should be — a combination of rustic and luxurious that lets guests relax in what feels like someone’s beautifully decorated big log home while enjoying state-of-the-art facials, massages, wraps, scrubs and other treatments.
The mud season special sends you home with enticements to come back for more: coupons for a free glass of wine at the equally new Heck’s Tavern (I ran out of time so will have to check that out later), a free yoga class and savings on future spa treatments.
Don’t Forget Mom. Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away, meaning a collective groan goes up from the county’s shopping-phobic male inhabitants. But lose the fear and get a free beer while finding gifts for mom or graduates at Saturday’s craft fair at the Parshall Inn.
That’s right, a crafts fair in the PI. It all starts at 10:30 a.m. when only women are allowed in to enjoy mimosas and truffles while they shop. The doors open to everyone at noon when the first beer is free and food specials are offered along with gift sales. There also will be door prizes, giveaways and free chair massages, so take a drive through Byer’s Canyon for an easy way to get your shopping done.
Keep in Touch: What’s got your attention around the area? Let me know. I’ll try to find the answer or spread the news. Send it all to JDayQuilts@msn.com.
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