Norwood Fire Chief John Bockrath said the local area is entering wildfire season, and he would like people to prepare and remain aware.
“The fire district would like to let people know that we are available to assist people with their controlled burns,” he told The Norwood Post last week. “Actually, we want to assist with the larger burns to prevent fires from getting out of control.”
Bockrath said people should call the Norwood Fire Station at 970-327-4800 and ask for Mark Garcia, who is the wildland fire coordinator. They may leave a message for him regarding controlled burns, and Garcia will contact them to plan.
Bockrath said the public should know controlled burns are weather dependent, meaning controlled burns cannot take place during a “red flag warning,” and winds must be less than 15 mph. Additionally, start times for controlled burns can take place no later than 10 a.m. on any appropriate burn day. There also must be no high-exposure risks present, including buildings, power lines or dense tree areas.
Bockrath said those performing controlled burns must have water on site, and landowners must contact the San Miguel County dispatch center at 970-728-1911 prior to any burning.
He said it’s also important for people to seriously consider fire mitigation around their homes and properties to create a defensible space.
“Homes in the path of a wildfire have greater than a 70 percent chance of survival with a defensible space and when defensive actions are taken,” he said. “The West Region Wildfire Council in Montrose will provide a free site visit and assessment. They will also help with project planning and assist with grant applications to cover up to 75 percent of mitigation costs.”
Still, homeowners can do self-mitigation efforts if they prefer, he added. Bockrath said there are resources available for free mitigation through Team Rubicon, a nonprofit volunteer organization made up of former military members, first-responders and civilians.
The Norwood Fire Protection District will hold an informational meeting on April 6 at 7 p.m. at the Norwood Fire Station. Anyone interested in fire mitigation and controlled burn assistance is encouraged to attend.
“I will also be placing flyers around town with relevant information,” Bockrath said. “And I will be contacting the homeowners’ associations on Wright’s Mesa with information to disseminate to their homeowners.”
Bockrath said the local fire district board took a big step in protecting the community from wildfires by recently hiring Garcia as the full-time wildland fire coordinator. The district is currently in the process of hiring contract wildland firefighters to assist Garcia during the wildland fire season.
“We live in a high risk to extreme fire area,” Bockrath said. “We are a small tight-knit community, and we need to band together to prevent the devastation a wildfire can cause.”
Bockrath also said the Norwood Fire Protection District, in conjunction with the West Region Wildfire Council, will offer a wood-chipping program for anyone who is doing mitigation.
“I don't have the exact dates yet, but it will be the end of June, early July,” he said.