First EMERGE meeting in two years covers wildfire risk management

The East Clear Creek community meeting also gave updates on county projects

Andrew Fraieli
afraieli@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/22/22

East Mount Evans Resource, Growth and the Environment — or EMERGE — met for the first time in almost two years on May 18 with about 50 people attending.

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First EMERGE meeting in two years covers wildfire risk management

The East Clear Creek community meeting also gave updates on county projects

Posted
East Mount Evans Resource, Growth and the Environment — or EMERGE — met for the first time in almost two years on May 18 with about 50 people attending. They discussed the county commissioners' current projects, the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office's new emergency systems and current wildland fire-reduction tactics.
 
Founded in 1993, the group meets semi-annually to discuss “information about the land, water, wildlife and plants, as well as providing pertinent news from Clear Creek County government and the school district,” according to its webpage. The group specifically covers the southeast corner of Clear Creek County.
 
Sheriff Rick Albers began by telling of the Sheriff's Office's current staff shortages, including one nursing position, four jailers, three dispatchers, a patrol sergeant, two officers, one investigator and a jail tech. This is due partially to the cost of living in Clear Creek county being so high compared with other areas.
 
“My officers can’t live out here,” he said.
 
The other cause is people simply moving on to other jobs and states, and higher paying positions and sign-on bonuses in other counties, Albers said.
 
He went on to speak about a few services like SafeCall for checking and informing older residents who may live alone and house checks.
 
Fire Chief Mike Weege of Evergreen spoke on a new fire alert system called Lookout Alert that functions by district rather than by county now, so Clear Creek residents in the Evergreen Fire/Rescue district must sign up for this service themselves. He also described working with various local law enforcement agencies, such as the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, on evacuation plans.
 
Clear Creek County Commissioners Sean Wood, Randy Wheelock and George Marlin spoke on various current projects such as using some of the federal funds the county received from the American Rescue Plan — about $1.9 million total — on affordable child care to help people return to work.
 
They also spoke on short-term rental permits and the need for more comprehensive services for mental health in Clear Creek County.
 
Wheelock specifically spoke on tourism management, a way of mitigating the effects of large numbers of people visiting the forest of Clear Creek. He highlighted that most fires in the county are human-caused, and the more people in the forests, the more likely a fire will start somewhere. Timed-entry systems, like those currently used by the Rocky Mountains National Park, was an example he used of how to do this management.
 
The main topic was wildfire management, which Jessica Moore of Evergreen Fire/Rescue spoke on.
 
“Our forests are incredibly unhealthy,” she said.
 
She explained that the forests were meant to burn periodically to rid themselves of extra debris, but the last 100 years or so of mismanagement has led to the current “mega-fires.”
 
Firefighters cannot be sent to mega-fires she said, as some burn so hot concrete foundations have turned to dust. Risk management is key, she elaborated.
 
Moore spelled out different ways houses catch fire, from embers lighting smaller flammable materials like pine needles and welcome mats close to the house, to direct flames on fences which carry the fire directly to the house. The department offers free assessments of properties to help homeowners understand what risk management can be taken, as well as a chipper service to remove fallen slash.
 
More information on risk management and Evergreen Fire/Rescue’s services can be found at evergreenfirerescue.com.

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