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What is it?

Both structure fires and wild land fires (wildfires) pose a threat to Fort Collins. 

What’s the Risk?

The potential for a large scale, disastrous fire exists in some areas of Fort Collins. The Downtown area consists of many turn-of-the-century heavy timber and masonry buildings. While quite a few of these buildings have been renovated, there are still areas in need of restoration. Another concern is the urban/wild land interface. More and more, large estates are being built in the foothills area, and thus are vulnerable to the threat of wildfires. Finally, a new style of residential development features large homes and townhouses built in high density neighborhoods. These areas have less access and more combustible construction methods.

Many fires in the western United States are started by lightning. In the past decade there have been more than 15,000 lightning-induced fires nationwide. These wildfires have resulted in several hundred million dollars of damage each year, as well as the loss of 2 million acres of forest annually.

How Should I Prepare?

Structure fires:

  • Install smoke detectors.
  • Make and practice an escape plan.
  • Remember, if a fire threatens your home, you should leave first, and then call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's house. Many people who die in fires actually die from smoke inhalation, not from the flames. So get out first, before you are overcome by the smoke and fumes.
  • Purchase collapsible escape ladders for upper floor windows and practice using them.
  • Install fire extinguishers in the home and teach family members how to use them.
  • Be careful when cooking. Keep the stove area clean and clear of combustibles such as bags, boxes and other appliances. If a fire starts, put a lid over the burning pan or use the fire extinguisher. Never pour water on grease fires.
  • Keep your electrical wiring in good condition. Have wire replaced if it is frayed or cracked. Make sure wiring is not under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas. Do not overload outlets or extension cords.

Wild Land fires:

  • Check with your local fire department to determine the wild fire hazards specific to your area.
    • You can obtain guidelines on how to create a “defensible space” from your local fire station. These guidelines help to increase the chance that your home will survive a wild land fire in your area.
  • These guidelines include actions like:
    • Thinning tree and brush cover.
    • Cleaning your roof and gutters
    • Pruning branches to 10 ft above the ground.
  • If you are certain that you have time to protect your home you should:
    • Close your windows, vents and doors.
    • Turn off propane tanks.
    • Wet shrubs within 15 feet of your home.
    • Gather your fire tools.
      • Examples: Extinguisher, ax, gloves, etc.
    • Open your fireplace damper but close the screens
  • If your area has been advised to evacuate you should do so immediately.
    • Take your 72-hour kit with you.
    • Tell someone when you are leaving and where you are going.
  • If you are advised to evacuate your home you should:
    • Leave a light on in every room to give potential firefighters better visibility.
    • Leave outside doors unlocked to allow firefighters easy access to a fire in your home.
    • Open any barn doors or fences to allow large animals to escape the fire as well.
    • If Police or Fire personnel instruct you to evacuate to a specific location DO NOT go anywhere else, the fire may have spread to other areas.
  • After the fire has been contained don’t go home unless you have been advised by Police or Fire personnel.
    • Check your home for hot spots or small fires.
    • Report any broken utilities.

If you are caught out in the open in a fire:

  • The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area.
  • When in an automobile, move it to the barest possible ground. Close all windows and doors. Lie on the floor and cover yourself with a jacket or blanket.
  • If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or the ditch on the uphill side. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire's heat.
  • When hiking in the back country, seek a depression with sparse fuel. Clear fuel from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself.
  • On a mountaintop, the back side is safer.