Tuesday, July 3, 2012


A Type 2 Incident Management Team takes contro...
A Type 2 Incident Management Team takes control of a fire emergency. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Wildfire prevention, preparation, and emergency plan funding and execution were the themes at a recent emergency Aspen City Council meeting called by Aspen Mayor, Mick Ireland.

Pitkin County Sheriff and Incident Response Team Leader, Joe DiSalvo, referring to the roles of Pitkin County and the City of Aspen, stressed that during the first 24 hours of a wildfire emergency, “We are responsible”. 

Mayor Ireland assured the sheriff and other attendees that the local incident response teams will, “have the funds to do whatever is necessary”, in the event of an actual emergency, and then opened discussion regarding additional, specific funding for public outreach about the danger and what one can do to be prepared.

Sheriff DiSalvo, Aspen Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven, White River National Forest Public Affairs Officer Bill Kight, and several other area officials discussed the wildfire issue in some detail. 

They outlined the current fire conditions in the county, the history of wildfires in the Aspen and surrounding area, the city and county’s emergency response structure and current level of preparedness, and steps they have taken to inform the public about the current fire danger, including what preventative and preparatory measures individuals and entities can take to be ready for a local wildfire emergency.  They also relayed their personal experiences in this arena.

White River National Forest Public Affairs Officer Bill Kight said that he, like many people, used to think that having to be evacuated would never happen to him. After experiencing it twice himself, he now knows it can happen to anyone at any time.

Fire Marshall, Ed Van Walraven, discussed what the public can do to help prevent fires in the first place and how to be prepared in case of an actual emergency.  He suggested that individuals prepare a “to go” kit comprised of but not limited to:

-          Three changes of clothes and extra footwear
-          Sleeping bags and blankets
-          Three day’s worth of portable water – about one gallon per person per day
-          A First Aid kit – including necessary prescription medication
-          Extra batteries and personal sanitation supplies
-          A wind up emergency radio in order to be able to receive pertinent information in the event of loss of electricity
-          Enough cash to last for three days
-          Important documents such as insurance policies, property deeds, and documents listing bank account numbers and other important information

A more detailed, comprehensive list may be found at ReadyColorado.com - http://www.readycolorado.com/ready-central/build-a-kit/

Van Walraven also suggested keeping one's cell phone charged, having a full tank of gas in the car, and creating an evacuation plan that includes having two possible ways out and two meeting places outside of the immediate area to go to if an evacuation is needed (plan A and plan B).  Should actual evacuations be necessary, evacuation route and shelter location information will be disseminated via all of  the public communication channels at the City and County’s disposal.

Finally, Aspen police spokesperson Blair Weyer discussed what is being done currently in terms of informing the public about the fire danger, how to be prepared, and what help resources are available. 

As well as providing information handouts to local hotels and lodges, hanging signs at bus stops and the airport, and disseminating information via newspaper and radio, the Incident Management Team has published a website, www.pitkinemergency.org, that provides current information and resource links. This website also provides a link to a site, www.pitkinalert.org, where subscribers can sign up to receive free real time emergency information alerts via text message, email, voice or pager.  This is especially valuable to those not able to be reached by “reverse 911”.

Ultimately, the City of Aspen passed a resolution authorizing $10,000, to be immediately available, to continue and expand the current public outreach programs concerning steps individuals can take for wildfire prevention and what they should do in the event of an actual fire emergency.

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