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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 7 July 2019  

None Black Forest News   None Book Review   None Community Calendar   None Did You Know?  
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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  FFPD June board meeting
  By Robin Widmar

   The Falcon Fire Protection District held its regular monthly board meeting June 20. All board members were present except Mike Collins, who participated via conference call. Attorney Richard Shearer did not attend.
   Reservists Wyatt Benoit and John Gue were sworn in as firefighters by FFPD Chief Trent Harwig.
   Public Safety Task Force update
   Paul Hanley of George K. Baum & Co. discussed the results of the public opinion mail survey sent out to district residents in May. There was a response rate of about 9.7 percent; previous surveys by this company have yielded response rates between 8 and 17 percent. Hanley said this was not a scientific poll, nor is it a predictor of a potential ballot measure’s success or failure. Rather, the survey results provide a general undertone of the electorate.
   Hanley said about 74 percent of respondents supported the proposed mill levy increase to establish a district-run ambulance service and improve staffing. He said the issues presented in the survey resonated with participants across all demographics (age, gender, political affiliation). He also said the fire department received high marks compared to other surveys his firm has conducted. Even so, he advised that the department and its supporters would still need to advocate for the measure.
   Harwig commented that credit for the “high marks” goes to the district’s firefighters.
   Hanley was scheduled to present the survey results to the Public Safety Task Force at its meeting following the board meeting. After reviewing the information, the task force will present a recommendation to the board at the July 12 meeting.
   Treasurer’s report
   Harwig reported that the fiscal year was 42 percent complete as of May 31. The district had received 56 percent of its anticipated revenue, and general fund expenses were at 32 percent. Harwig said revenue from special ownership taxes is down about 3 percent, which translates to around $10,000 less for the district.
   Harwig said the district just paid for the cab and chassis for the next engine being purchased. Delivery is expected around September.
   Chief’s report
   Deputy Chief Jeff Petersma said there was a spike in reserve standby hours as firefighters from the previous fire academy were released to the line. Reservists logged 753.5 standby hours in May. The current academy had completed eight weeks of training as of the date of the board meeting. There were no staffing “brownouts” in May.
   Incident statistics
   FFPD had 241 calls for service in May, which is a 6.2 percent increase over May 2017. The year-to-date total as of May 31 was 1,088 calls, which is a 15.7 percent increase over the same period in 2017.
   Meridian Road/U.S. Highway 24 intersection
   Director Tom Kerby said, “There is a lot of movement going on” related to the Highway 24/Meridian Road project. He said the county anticipates construction will begin around September, but he has not seen the most current plans.
   Land west of Station 3
   Harwig reported that the fire district has entered into an agreement with the Falcon Highlands Metropolitan District regarding the parcel of land west of FFPD Station 3. As reported in the June issue of The New Falcon Herald, this parcel was originally sold by the fire district but the transaction was never recorded. Falcon Highlands is technically the owner, but FFPD is still shown as the owner of record. The county wants to buy the land for its reconfiguration of Meridian Road and U.S. Highway 24.
   The agreement names the metro district as FFPD’s agent to negotiate with the county. Falcon Highlands will reimburse FFPD for the required appraisal. Harwig anticipated that negotiations with the county should be complete by July 28. Once the sale is finalized, Falcon Highlands intends to transfer to FFPD an approximate 2-acre strip of land between FFPD Station 3 and U.S. Highway 24.
   Shiloh Mesa exclusion
   Harwig said that FFPD legal counsel Richard Shearer has received the information regarding the specific lots to be included in the exclusion, and has contacted the attorneys for the city and for Shiloh Mesa. Harwig said the exclusion process is moving forward, and Shearer feels it will be done by the July board meeting.
   Station 2 cell tower lease
   Since no one has contacted FFPD regarding interest in the Station 2 cell tower, the board will remove the item from its agenda.
   Approval of amended and restated service plan
   Harwig reported that FFPD’s restated service plan has been reviewed by the county, and the county has deemed the changes minor, so it will not be necessary to go through a complete re-approval process. The board voted to accept the amended and restated service plan.
Falcon Fire Department reservists Wyatt Benoit (left) and John Gue were sworn in as firefighters by Fire Chief Trent Harwig at the June 20 FFPD board meeting. Photo by Robin Widmar
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  Wildfire Preparedness Workshop
  By Robin Widmar

   On June 18, Black Forest Fire/Rescue and Falcon Fire Department co-hosted a free Wildfire Preparedness Workshop organized by the El Paso County Office of Emergency Management.
   About 50 residents attended to learn more about preparing for evacuations, receiving emergency notifications and mitigating properties to reduce wildfire risk. Other agencies represented at the event included CERT (the El Paso County Community Emergency Response Team), El Paso County Wildland Team, American Red Cross, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region Community Animal Response Team, El Paso-Teller County 911 Authority, the Independence Center and Colorado State Forest Service.
   In his opening remarks, Black Forest Fire Chief Bryan Jack provided an overview of his department and a summary of the 2013 Black Forest Fire. He discussed some of the changes his agency has made in the wake of the fire:
  • Increased public education and awareness about wildfire risk and mitigation
  • Updated the BFFR Community Wildfire Preparedness Plan
  • Increased BFFR’s fleet of fire suppression vehicles
  • Hired additional staff
  • Increased staffing on Red Flag Warning days
  • Increased wildland fire training requirements for firefighters

   Additionally, Jack said that mutual aid and automatic aid agreements among agencies in the county have been strengthened. Now, when a wildfire call is dispatched, additional resources from other agencies are automatically dispatched instead of waiting for the lead agency to request their assistance. “This county has really come together,” he said. “We will continue to make improvements in the county and at the state level.”
   Jack said that May to October used to be considered wildfire season. “Now, I don’t even say ‘fire season’ anymore,” he said. “It can happen any time.” He emphasized the need for residents to take some type of action, no matter how small, to help protect their homes. “The more steps you take, the more you help us.”
   Falcon Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Jeff Petersma also provided a brief overview of Falcon’s fire district, which abuts the Black Forest fire district. He commended those who attended the workshop for recognizing the need for wildfire preparedness and prevention efforts. Since the Black Forest Fire, Petersma said that FFPD developed its own community wildfire preparedness plan, and two neighborhoods within the fire district achieved certification as Firewise communities.
   Petersma said local fire agencies have seen increased county involvement in major fire incidents and an increase in state level resources, including aerial firefighting resources and increased community education and outreach. He also addressed the year-round wildfire problem, noting that FFPD’s first wildfire happened Feb. 14 and the most recent happened just three days before the workshop. Despite rainfall the week prior to that fire, he said, “There was plenty of dead fuel among the green.”
   Bill Mantia of Black Forest Together spoke about the group’s evolution from an organization that provided resources to fire victims immediately after the 2013 Black Forest fire to one that is still actively involved in helping the community continue its recovery. He encouraged residents to help themselves and help their neighbors by volunteering or donating money for mitigation efforts. “We’re not going to recover if we don’t participate,” he said.
   Mantia also spoke about an ongoing program called Trees 4 Tomorrow (see Black Forest News, “Recover, rebuild, restore, reforest” by Leslie Sheley. PAGE NO.
   County CERT volunteers Doug Higgins and Steve Dennison discussed property ignition zones and structure ignition factors as they relate to wildfire mitigation. Higgins stressed that mitigation does not equate to clear-cutting all vegetation on a property. He also suggested that residents hire out mitigation tasks if they are unable or do not want to do the work themselves. Dennison spoke about structure hardening, which means making a structure less susceptible to ignition by using Class A roofing materials, installing non-combustible siding, and clearing clutter away from buildings — among other tasks. He encouraged residents to have evacuation plans that include pets and livestock, learn how to shut off utilities in their home, and ensure they are signed up to receive emergency notifications through the El Paso-Teller County 911 Authority.
   David Root, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, talked about wildfire preparedness plans and the importance of community-wide mitigation. As an example, he said the Cathedral Pines neighborhood in Black Forest survived the first day of the Black Forest Fire because of its fire mitigation efforts. Root pointed out that “community effort” is not limited to geographical subdivisions or homeowners associations. “People should mitigate, even if their neighbors don’t,” he said.
   For more information about wildfire preparedness as well as workshop presentations and handouts, visit the El Paso County website ( and enter “wildfire mitigation” in the search box.
A display at the Wildfire Preparedness Workshop reminds everyone to include pets in emergency evacuation planning. Photo by Robin Widmar
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   Safety Tip - Hot vehicles not cool for kids or pets
  By Robin Widmar

   Every year, there are reports about children and pets who have died or been seriously injured because they were left in hot vehicles. The National Safety Council reported that 42 children died in 2017 as a result of being left in hot cars.
   The dangers of hot vehicles can exist even on mild days. Testing by Consumer Reports showed that when the outside temperature is only 61 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a closed car can reach 105 degrees in just one hour. That temperature is a dangerous and potentially fatal level for a child or animal. Studies have shown that cracking a window or parking in the shade does not help.
   In Colorado, House Bill 17-1179, signed into law April 13, 2017, took effect Aug. 9, 2017, and provides immunity for a person who uses reasonable force to rescue an “at-risk” person (child, or elderly or disabled person) or a dog or cat from a locked vehicle, but only within certain parameters. The person must heed the following:
  • Believe that the person or animal in the vehicle is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death
  • Make sure the vehicle is actually locked
  • Attempt to locate the vehicle owner
  • Call authorities before making entry into the vehicle
  • Await arrival of law enforcement personnel afterward

   The vehicle in question also cannot be a law enforcement vehicle, and the person cannot interfere with emergency responders.
   Here are some tips to prevent a tragedy:
  • Never leave children or pets alone in a vehicle, even for a short time.
  • Leave pets at home on warm or hot days.
  • “Look before you lock.” Make it a habit to check the vehicle before locking it.
  • Keep parked vehicles locked so that children cannot gain access, and store keys out of reach. Nearly three in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle.
  • Create reminders:
    • Put something in the back seat next to the child, such as a briefcase, purse or cell phone.
    • Set a calendar reminder on a cell phone to make sure the child was dropped off at day care, and have providers text or call if the child is a no-show.
  • Call 911 if you see a child alone in a car.
  • Be alert for signs of heat stress in a pet (heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, unsteady gait, vomiting or a deep red or purple tongue); immediately take action to gradually cool the animal; and then take it to a veterinarian.

   (Sources: Safe Kids Worldwide, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Humane Society of the United States)
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