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Envision will host a free, public wildfire information session from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the Poncha Springs New Town Hall, at which it will present the findings of the Chaffee Wildfire Survey and take public input. One of the more startling pieces of information gained from the survey is that while 80 percent of Chaffee Wildfire Survey respondents expect a major wildfire to happen in the next five years, local residents appear unprepared for it.

Of more than 1,000 people who took the survey between Feb. 11 and March 4, some 40 percent said they do not have an evacuation plan and 44 percent have not registered for the county’s reverse-911 alert system. These and other survey findings will be presented during the community meeting.

Local agency leaders and firefighters will be on hand to share information about the importance of preparedness and how to do it. They also will listen to community feedback in facilitated input sessions to learn more about challenges and concerns residents have about the county’s wildfire danger.

“The citizens of Chaffee County have a choice about how wildfire shows up at our door,” said Battalion Chief Kent Maxwell of the Chaffee County Fire Protection District. “How we come together now as a community to plan, prepare and mitigate for a fire will make a difference. We can choose whether we will face a wildfire disaster or can reasonably protect the values we cherish.”

Like most places in the West, Chaffee County’s wildfire susceptibility has risen due to decades of fire suppression and insect infestations that resulted in poor forest health. Experts say that large fires can threaten not only lives and homes but also can cause floods and mudslides that damage water supplies and fisheries. They can “bake” the soil and impede vegetation regrowth, and can affect the economy for years to come.

The Chaffee Wildfire Survey assessed current preparedness, community perceptions and opportunities for improvement. Organizers say the public meeting is designed to help residents work together with fire professionals to reduce danger for everyone. Firefighters say that mitigation treatments — such as moving firewood off decks and mowing grass — are important actions residents can take to prepare their homes to resist fire. Homeowners who attend the meeting will be provided information about who to contact to learn how to create defensible space around their properties.
Envision is working with agency leaders, fire departments, the county office of emergency management and others to engage the community and improve wildfire protection through planning, For more information contact

Photo courtesy of Envision Chaffee County.