This past Saturday was the pilot Wildfire Preparedness Day of Service in Colorado and my colleagues Michele Steinberg, Patti Maguire and I departed from the Denver Field Office bright and early to visit as many project sites as we could hit in one day. By late afternoon, we’d driven more than 200 miles and had stopped at four of the sixteen organized projects. We had the privilege of interacting with more than a hundred people busily working on service projects in their communities. We tried to come up with a favorite site, but found it impossible since each one had endeared us for different reasons. There were some goose bumps (in a good way) after witnessing the social capital communities generate when they work together to improve local issues. We met volunteers of all ages donating their time and talents and marveled at their positive attitudes, happy dispositions and the sense of pride and accomplishment that permeated the air.
At Northeast Teller County Fire Department in Woodland Park, we met Fire Chief Tyler Lambert and his crew that were partnering with two local Firewise Community Champions and the Colorado State Forest Service to educate residents about Firewise concepts; at Ute Park Elementary School in Green Mountain Falls we saw dozens of teens from a local high school helping Red Cross fill sand bags for distribution to area residents to help protect their homes from post-Waldo Canyon Fire flooding. And in Black Forest, we watched as a very diverse group of multiple generations worked to thin a forest to improve the safety of a secondary egress route; and as the clock wound down we made our way to Roxborough Park where residents had spent the day learning from a wide range of wildland fire agencies about the importance of mitigation and evacuation planning.
Those were just a sampling of the efforts that unfolded throughout the state – and I would be remiss if I didn’t share just a few more with you: in Alamosa a mitigation project was done around a historic pioneer stockade designated as a National Historic Landmark; Hosting employee volunteers built firefighter comfort kits that will be distributed to wildland firefighters on future fires and the Lower Valley Fire District in Fruita partnered with BLM, university students and homeowners to work on a fuels reduction project. It's so impressive to see what can be accomplished when individuals are empowered to come together and work to reduce their wildfire risk and make their communities a safer place to live. It was our privilege to meet some of the amazing individuals that embraced the day of service and took the time and energy to coordinate both projects and volunteers. We salute and thank all the participants!