Update: A neighbor who lost their home in the Cold Springs Wildfire wrote me with two excellent suggestions. Make sure you put the deeds to your vehicles as well as an extra set of keys in the safe deposit box as well. Thanks for the suggestion, John!
The month of May brings up images of daffodils, wildflowers, and showery weather for most people. Growing up in Missouri as a child, May represents springtime — warmer weather and the greening of all living things outdoors. But since moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, May brings different thoughts. Thoughts of wildfire and gearing up for a new season of hot, dry weather and increase fire danger.
May is Wildfire Awareness Month. As we come off one of the drier winters here in Nederland, it’s important to do what we can to prepare ourselves for potential wildfires. Already, red flag warnings are being posted throughout Colorado and the southwest. Just this past week, an 11,000-acre wildfire has broken out in Arizona.
What does wildfire awareness mean for residents in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)? It means being realistic that we choose to live in an area where it’s not a matter of if, but when a wildfire will break out. It means taking aggressive measures to mitigate your property — clearing trees, clearing brush away from the house, putting gravel around the foundation. It means making your home a place that firefighters will choose to defend because it is safe to do so.
But I take wildfire awareness a step further. Having been through several wildfires since we moved here eight years ago, I realized a number of things. More than half of the people who lost their homes in the Fourmile Canyon Fire in 2010 found out they were underinsured. Yes, we have an idea of what our home would sell for, but do we really know what it would cost to rebuild our home?
I found it important to examine our insurance policy to see if it really reflected today’s building costs. Another way to be aware is to update your home inventory for insurance purposes. Did you buy a new TV this past year? Did you make home improvements? A proper home inventory includes a detailed list of everything in your home and its outbuildings. But to expedite the insurance process, compiling photos of all my belongings is equally important.
Just where do I keep this important documents, such as my home inventory, insurance info? Because the reality is that a fire could break out and you may not be able to get home to get your documents from your safe. You may not be able to get your laptop computers. Having a safe deposit box off site as well as backing digital files to the Cloud or other internet service is huge.
After the Cold Springs Fire, I realized there was one more step I needed to include in my awareness plan. Our animals mean everything to me, and my greatest fear with a wildfire is not being able to get our pets. We had a discussion with our neighbors and now whenever any of us goes out of town, even more one night, we designate someone else to rescue our pets if needed. It gives me peace of mind that even if the worst happened, and our house burned down, our pets would be safe.
It’s never too early to do everything we can to prepare for wildfires. What will you be doing this month as part of being prepared?