As we approach our Wildfire Season, thoughts may be turning to “When a wildfire happens and we have to evacuate, how does this all work? Who’s in charge? When will we find out if we have to leave? What should I do if I get an evacuation call, and who will it come from?”
Alan Anderson, our Foothills Fire Protection District Fire Chief, offers this illuminating description of what, who, why, where, when and how…
Your fire district is not “responsible for emergency evacuation routes”. We certainly identify and educate the public on those routes, through social media, community events, and of course in our CWPP(Community Wildfire Protection Plan). However, it is the responsibility of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to facilitate evacuation of our community in the event of an emergency (including wildfires). The responsibility of actually evacuating, lies with each community member and visitor.
The best way that I explain this to community members is using the example that when there is a fire, the fire department is going towards the fire. We are responding to the actual incident and we are responsible for mitigating the hazard (putting the fire out). We do not stop to direct traffic or close roads and point people in the direction of safety. This is all facilitated by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. In an actual emergency situation, they will use their deputies, CDOT, Colorado State Patrol, and any other local resource to make this happen.
When we had the Bald Mt. Fire behind Mt. Vernon in September of 2019. We sent all of our apparatus, paid staff, and volunteers into the forest to fight the fire. Myself and Chief Vaughn [sic] created a command post at Ralston Elementary parking lot. This command post was initially created by combining Foothills Fire senior leadership and the senior on duty officer with Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (usually a Commander). We convened at the back of the Sheriff’s car and on a computer, we identified which way the fire was going based on our crews at the fire. Fire then tells the Sheriff’s Dept. what areas of our community to begin either evacuating or pre-evacuating. These areas are determined through defined polygons that Jefferson County has built into their computer system. Residents and visitors are notified through cell phone notifications and notification systems such as CODE RED.
I hope this offers you a better understanding of how it works and who is responsible for various tasks. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with further questions.
With kind regards,
Alan Anderson, Fire Chief, Foothills Fire Protection District
28812 Rainbow Hill Rd, Evergreen, CO 80439
Office – 303-526-0707, Cell – 720-775-8765