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Focus on wildfire safety: Protect yourself and your community

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. -- Most people recognize Smokey Bear from wildfire prevention posters and commercials on radio and television, but did you know he has been working hard to inspire Americans to prevent wildfires since 1944? Yes, the fictional character and his long-running ad campaign to create awareness about preventing wildfires is still going strong.

Most of us remember his original signature line “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,” which was updated in 2001 to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” to address the increased threat of wildfire in suburban and urban areas. But do you know what steps you can take to reduce the risk to your home and family?

According to the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado’s fire season typically runs May through September. However, if you have been paying attention to the news lately or seen large plumes of smoke in the skies around El Paso County you know the danger from wildfires exists even now. Anytime we experience an extended period of time without a measureable amount of precipitation, a large quantity of dry fuels and have strong winds, the potential for wildfire greatly increases.

This year while you conduct your annual spring cleaning chores inside your home, it is also a great time to walk around the outside and focus on reducing the risk of wildfires from damaging your house. The National Fire Protection Association offers the following wildland fire safety tips for your home:

• CLEAR leaves and other vegetative debris from roofs, gutters, porches and decks. This helps prevent embers from igniting your home.

• REMOVE dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house.

• SCREEN in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.

• REMOVE flammable materials such as wood piles or propane tanks within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.

• PRUNE trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.

• KEEP your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.

• DISPOSE of debris and lawn cuttings quickly to reduce fuel for fire, don’t let them linger.

• INSPECT shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair the shingles that are loose or missing to prevent embers from penetrating your attic.

• COVER exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering. Also, ENCLOSE eaves and soffit vents with the same wire mesh screening to prevent ember entry.

In 2017, the U.S. had 71,499 wildfires burn more than 10 million acres of land, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Colorado had 967 wildfires with 111,667 acres lost.

By following these simple fire prevention tips, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station Fire Department says you can greatly reduce the effects of wildfire on your home and better protect your family.

“Every year, thousands of wildfires burn across the U.S., and more people are living in wildland-urban interface areas where they are at an increased risk,” says Guy Chastain, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Fire Department assistant chief. “But by working together, residents can make their property and neighborhood much safer from wildfire.”

For more information and safety tips, visit www.nfpa.org, www.fireadapted.org, and www.firewise.org.

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