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The Marshall Fire engulfs a home in Louisville, Colo., Thursday Dec. 30, 2021 as crews worked through the night battling the blaze that had destroyed more than 500 home in Boulder County. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado is no stranger to destructive wildfires – the Marshall Fire, causing $513 million in damage, and the Black Forest Fire, causing around $420 million in damage, to name two.

As was the case with the late December 2021 Marshall Fire, a day can go from calm to chaotic in a matter of minutes, making it crucial to always be prepared for the unlikely possibility of a surprise wildfire.

Although, fires are not always avoidable, there are precautions that Colorado's residents can take to protect themselves and their most valued possessions.

1. Create a wildfire action plan

Creating a wildfire action plan is a great way to be proactive about protecting yourself and your belongings should a fire occur. 

The plan should include: 

  • Clear escape routes from your home and neighborhood in case of evacuations 
  • A household communication plan where everyone can confirm they are safe
  • A designated meeting place for household members away from the fire
  • A plan for evacuating pets and animals

All members of the household should be familiar with the plan and know where they can find a copy of it for reference.

Part of this planning may also mean communicating with your neighbors. For instance, is one neighbor more likely to be home during the day than you, thus someone you might ask to grab the family pet should an evacuation or pre-evacuation order be issued.

2. Fire safe box 

Items like passports, deeds, and other precious belongings should be kept in fire safe boxes. In the event that a fire breaks out in the home, having a fire safe box will keep people from scrambling to collect these items. 

If a wildfire prompts an evacuation, it is also convenient to have you important possessions all in one place.

3. Prepare your home

Creating a 30-100 foot fire safety perimeter around your home is recommended if you live in an area that could be affected by wildfire. Within this area you should regularly rake leaves, clear dead limbs and twigs, mow the lawn, and clear out all flammable vegetation. Tree limbs that grow over your home should be trimmed as well. 

If you collect firewood, make sure to keep it outside of the safety perimeter. Be careful to keep other flammable materials like gasoline and oily rags a safe distance away from the home as well. 

4. Remember the six Ps

Evacuations can be sudden and stressful, so it is important to prioritize what you bring with you.

If time permits, keep in mind the six Ps, as outlined by ReadyForWildfire.org:

  • People and pets
  • Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
  • Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
  • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
  • Personal computer hard drive and disks
  • “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash

5. Pre-Pack an 'Escape Kit'

Prepping a pre-packed 'escape kit' can be beneficial, complete with essentials like a first aid kit, a flashlight, a whistle, bottled water, dry food, a phone charger, a paper map of the area, and layers. This kit can be ready to go at all times, allowing you to grab the items that will keep you safe and comfortable quickly, so that you can spend more time on the 'Ps' that are mentioned above.

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