MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Now that wildfires are no longer contained to one 'season,' it's more important than ever to be prepared for when a fire could strike. That's why Manitou Springs held a Living with Wildfire Townhall Wednesday for community members.
Manitou Springs in particular is at extreme risk for wildfires thanks to how much nature surrounds the mountain town, along with the fact that there’s very few roads in and out.
The two-hour-long meeting was a chance for residents to hear a presentation given by experts from the Community Education and Outreach Team from the Colorado Springs Fire Department as well as personnel with the Manitou Springs Fire Department.
Those participating said focusing on fire preparation in Manitou Springs is life or death.
“Reaching out to the community, as many members as we can, is vital," said Jeremy Van Der Merwede, a Paramedic with Manitou Springs Fire Department. "Basically we have a way up the pass and a way into Colorado Springs, and that's it. So having this knowledge, having this information, is very important for every resident of this area.”
Not only are minimal exits from the city a problem, but the narrow and steep roads that wind through Manitou Springs also create a hazard.
“Most people don't realize that a fire truck needs almost 12 feet of clearance in order to get by," said Van Der Merwede. "So having a vehicle parked on either side of the road makes it extremely tight for us to get through. If we can't get to that emergency, it slows us down, and allows that fire to grow. Even in a medical emergency, it can actually delay care to patients who are in dire need. So when you're parking your vehicle, it's really important to try to take that second and really think, 'can a fire truck get by this?'"
The town hall's purpose is to encourage Manitou Springs residents to engage in conversation about wildfires in the community and to learn what to do to prepare for wildfires.
Andy Wells has lived in Manitou Springs for 17 years, and says he watched the Waldo Canyon Fire burn from his back deck.
"If it would have jumped Highway 24, that would have been very scary,” said Wells.
Wells says the memory of Waldo 10 years ago, and the fact his house butts up to a canyon, were the driving forces behind attending the town hall.
"I'm actually a fourth generation Manatoid," said Wells. "You know, there's disasters that I've seen. A lot of floods coming down, like Pawnee Avenue, and various other places. But we'd go up in smoke with, you know, Iron Mountain, Red Mountain and Mount Manitou. It's very scary.”
At the meeting firefighters said if you live in Manitou Springs and ever get a pre-evacuation notice for a fire, it's smart to get out at that point.
With how congested Manitou's roads can get, it's smart to leave while you still have plenty of time to get out of town.
For those who couldn't attend the meeting, the Colorado Springs Fire Department streamed the town hall on their Facebook page.