Last week I had an opportunity to accompany southern Colorado Fire Marshals Vernon Champlin (Falcon Fire Protection District), Margo Humes (Wescott Fire Protection District) and Randy Johnson (Larkspur Fire Protection District), as they interviewed homeowners and firefighters impacted by the June 2013 Black Forest Fire that destroyed 486 homes. These fire marshals, along with Black Forest Fire Rescue and with assistance from the Pikes Peak Wildfire Prevention Partners, are developing a collaboratively produced video targeted specifically to homeowners in their jurisdictions. With an objective of visually demonstrating the need for increased wildfire mitigation efforts and evacuation planning; the video features testimonials from a Black Forest resident that lost their home and another that was able to return home after the fire. They’re also including local firefighters who are sharing their experiences during the response effort. This group of fire marshals is working hard to educate and motivate residents to reduce their continued wildfire risk and improve their home/property’s chances of survivability.
While driving from interview-to-interview, Fire Marshal Champlin shared with me the group’s vision and their commitment in working with residents to make the area a safer place to live. During recent meetings, homeowners have had to be reminded that only 20% of the area burned and there’s still a lot of potential for more fires and much more work needs to be accomplished.
Champlin said the group working on the video feels, “The video is an important educational tool and by using our community residents and firefighters to help deliver the messages, we’ll be better able to connect with our audience. We’re focusing on the area’s fuel types, commonly used home construction materials and recognizable landmarks; we want it to personally resonate. It’s so important to drive home the point that our residents have the power to reduce their wildfire risk through their personal actions and behaviors. By making it a local tool, with a local emphasis, we’re increasing its ability to connect with the people we’re working with on a day-to-day basis. It’s our hope that the video will significantly increase the number of people implementing mitigation work within their home ignition zone.”
The group hopes to secure funding through private sector or grant opportunities that would provide a copy of the video to residents during stakeholder’s collaborative outreach and educational endeavors.