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"I could tell you that when you have trouble making up your mind about something, tell yourself you’ll settle it by flipping a coin. But don’t go by how the coin flips; go by your emotional reaction to the coin flip. Are you happy or sad it came up heads or tails?"
– David Brooks  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 6 June 2019  

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  March blizzard: a fire department perspective
  By Robin Widmar

   The March 2019 blizzard, classified as a “bomb cyclone” in meteorological terms, resulted in snowmageddon-like mayhem in the northern and eastern parts of the county and state. As with other blizzards in recent years, Falcon firefighters were in the thick of the storm.
   
   The National Weather Service in Pueblo began advance announcements for a potentially severe winter storm as early as March 9. By March 12, all of El Paso County was under a blizzard warning set to go into effect at 10:00 a.m. on March 13. That morning dawned deceptively calm, but once the storm ramped up, it did so with speed and ferocity. Travel conditions deteriorated rapidly. El Paso County officials estimated that 1,100 vehicles were stranded during the storm.
   
   Falcon firefighters received their first stranded motorist call just before 11 a.m. on March 13. After that, pagers began alerting minutes apart throughout the day and into the evening. District personnel are still sorting through the data, but it is estimated that more that 250 calls for service occurred within the Falcon Fire Protection District’s jurisdiction in 36 hours; which is more than the district sees during a typical month. Stranded motorists comprised the bulk of the blizzard-related calls.
   
   Falcon firefighters were not just dealing with an extremely unusual volume of dispatch notifications, though. The direct fire department phone line rang nearly nonstop for hours with requests for rescues or welfare checks on family members, as well as questions about road conditions, when power would be restored, when specific roads would be plowed, or if the fire department would deliver supplies to stranded residents.
   
   If firefighters were even available to answer the phones, the answer was often simply, “We don’t know.” FFPD personnel typically do not have any more information than what is already being disseminated to the general public. In fact, firefighters rely on many public information, including websites and social media for news outlets, weather, road conditions, utility outages and more.
   
   FFPD has a finite number of firefighters and apparatus available, and life-threatening emergencies received top priority. However, there were times when firefighters could not get to people who needed assistance. Like other vehicles, large fire engines and four-wheel drive utility trucks could not travel on roads made impassable by drifted snow, poor or no visibility or multitudes of stuck vehicles blocking roadways. Responding to calls for help was a challenge for all emergency responders that day.
   
   Snowcat tracked vehicles from El Paso County Search and Rescue, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and others assisted with rescues across the county. However, it took time for these crews to deploy and then make their way to each location of a reported emergency or stranded motorist.
   
   The same poor road conditions that stranded drivers also hampered fire department responses. FFPD Capt. Kirt described difficulties in seeing street signs and recognizing landmarks to find addresses. Streets were clogged with stuck and abandoned vehicles, and firefighters often didn’t know a road was blocked until they were right at the obstruction. Their own vehicle became stuck twice en route to calls and had to be pulled out by another FFPD vehicle. “It was frustrating,” he said.
   
   One FFPD fire engine was stuck on Constitution Avenue for about 10 hours, not in a snowdrift but because it was blocked in by other stranded vehicles. After it stopped for cars in the road ahead, other vehicles continued to drive around the fire truck and got stuck. Left with an engine and crew that could go nowhere, Lt. David Hawkins said, “We made the best of our situation.” He and his crew checked on stranded motorists and flagged around 60 vehicles with caution tape as they waited for conditions to improve.
   
   A FFPD four-wheel drive brush truck became stuck in deep snow at Patriot High School after delivering a stranded motorist to the Red Cross shelter there. After trying unsuccessfully to dig out, the crew crossed Highway 24 on foot to return to their fire station. They held on to each other’s coats to maintain contact in the gale-force wind and blinding snow. They returned later to free the stuck vehicle. That evening, members of the same crew paired up with snowcat operators to continue emergency responses and rescues. Two of the snowcats suffered mechanical issues and temporarily stranded the rescuers.
   
   Firefighter Cody Richins, who was recently hired by the district, commented that part of being a firefighter means not knowing what to expect from one day to the next. Of his blizzard experience, he said, “I had no idea I’d be riding around in a snowcat for 15 hours.”
   
   Despite the challenges and difficulties, firefighters also shared stories about private citizens helping each other and assisting emergency responders.
  • Citizen volunteers drove stranded motorists to the King Soopers on Constitution Avenue, which graciously allowed its store to be used as a temporary shelter.
  • People provided granola bars, hot chocolate and bottled water to the stranded fire crew, and a chef made them a hot meal once they returned to the fire station.
  • A family opened their home to a rescue team after their snowcat broke down, and even fed the crew breakfast.

   The members of the Falcon Fire Protection District wish to thank everyone who helped out during this historic weather event.
   
Save the date for the Easter Bunny!
Falcon Fire Department and Woodmen Hills are teaming up once more for the annual Easter Egg Hunt, which will be held April 20, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Fire Station 1 (12072 Royal County Down Road). The egg hunt starts at 10:30 a.m. There will be a variety of children’s activities, and the Humble BBQ food truck will be on site for food purchases. Check the Falcon Fire Department Facebook page (@FalconFireDept) for updates.

   
   Website: http://www.falconfirepd.org
   Facebook: Falcon Fire Department
   Twitter: @FalconFireDept
   NextDoor.com
  
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  Safety Tip - Tips for safe gardening
  By Robin Widmar

   This is the time of year when many people are itching to forget the winter snows and start working on gardens and lawns. April also marks some observances celebrating the great outdoors, including National Gardening Day (April 14), Earth Day (April 20), and Arbor Day (April 26). But digging in the dirt and trimming branches have their own risks. Believe it or not, every year thousands of people wind up in the emergency room from lawn and garden related accidents.
   
   Here are some general tips to prevent injuries while working in the garden, planting a new tree,or doing other yard chores.
  1. Always call 811 at least a few days before starting any digging project so locators can mark the approximate location of buried utility lines. For more information, check out http://call811.com.
  2. Wear gloves to reduce the risk of cuts, insect bites and skin irritation from fertilizers, pesticides and naturally occurring fungus or bacteria in the soil.
  3. Wear safety goggles, sturdy shoes and long pants when using power tools and equipment.
  4. Follow all instructions and warning labels on lawn and garden chemicals and keep them out of the reach of children.
  5. Use hearing protection when operating machinery such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other loud power equipment.
  6. Reduce sunburn and skin cancer risk by wearing long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades and sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
  7. Do not extinguish smoking materials in potted plants. Modern potting mixes are largely composed of peat moss, shredded wood, bark and other organic materials that can easily ignite.

   
   Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Society for Surgery of the Hand; Call811.com
  
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