Leadville News – April 26

Turquoise Lake Road Open All Around on Monday

Turquoise video

Lake County Public Works crew have been making good progress on opening up the winter thoroughfares that remain closed during the colder, snowy season. The Mineral Belt Trail (MBT) was the first to be plowed, although that has already seen a couple of spring snow storms since April 9. And the same can be said for County Road 1 up to the Hopemore Mine on the east side. Generally this time of year any build-up on the MBT melts off pretty fast if it gets some sunshine, however users are cautioned to keep an eye out for those shady spots that will continue to see some ice and snow until – maybe June!

As for the Turquoise Lake Road, according to Lake County Public Works Director Brad Palmer, the “closed” signs will officially be remove from County Road 9 on Monday, April 30.

“It’s the least amount of snow we’ve had to clear in all the years I’ve been doing it,” stated Palmer. And while that might be good news for a road and bridge crew that has a pretty aggressive ‘to-do” list during the warmer weather months, a low-snow-pack means one thing: wildfire season is right around the corner.

From Spring Snow to Wildfire Season

Before the spring snow has even topped falling in Lake County, the conversation has already started about this year’s wildfire season. There have already been roundtable discussions about this winter’s weather pattern and the seemingly low snow levels, especially on the Front Range and southern Colorado. And then came the hushed whispers, it’s like 2012 – oh no, not 2012!

But yes, it’s that serious even while Leadville neighborhoods still see plenty of snow in places the-sun-don’t-shine, the concern is real in Colorado. And while most of the state is haunted by the 2012 memory  of the Waldo Canyon Fire located above Colorado Springs, which killed two people, destroyed 346 homes, and burned more than 18,000 acres, those who were living in Leadville that year remember a different incident.

The Treasure Fire which ignited on June 23, 2012 in Birdseye Gulch north of town, sent gray-black smoke into the Cloud City’s bright blue skies, a bit too close for comfort.  With all hands on deck down at the Waldo Canyon wildfire, Lake County saw firefighters from all over the country arrive to fight the blaze, setting up camp in Ice Palace Park .

It was in the early days of publishing for Leadville Today (LT), but it was the only media on scene to provide daily reports and real-time news to local residents, as the Front Range media outlets had converged on Colorado Springs for the bigger story. Those Treasure Wildfire reports also provided comfort to the families of firefighters from the east coast and northwest relieved to see their loved-ones in the morning chow lines as LT would run a video clip of the soot-stained faces, getting ready to fight the highest wildfire ever recorded (still to date, but let us know!) They were a tough bunch of flatlanders, sucking in the rare air of 10,152 as they defended the home turf. You can re-read the Treasure WildFire Posts HERE, including some great video as the drama unfolded. It’s nice to know it turned out okay with no loss of life or property. But a good reminder to stay vigilant as the transition from spring snow plowing to wildfire season is a quick turn of the page!

Residents Asked To Be Wildfire Prepared

With wildfires burning homes and causing evacuations throughout Colorado already this month – in addition to statewide snow-pack levels being below normal, the Colorado State Forest Service wants to remind homeowners living in the wildland-urban interface to prepare for wildfires before they arrive.

While there is no guarantee firefighters will be able to save a home from a wildfire, the odds increase if homeowners and communities take proactive steps to reduce their fire risk, says Lisa Mason, CSFS forestry education specialist.

“Fire risk reduction efforts are much more effective when neighbors work together to reduce hazardous fuels around their homes and throughout the community,” Mason said.

The CSFS offers numerous resources to help private landowners reduce wildfire risk, with specific recommendations including:

  • Remove all flammable vegetation within at least 15 feet of any part of a home or other structure, including decks.
  • Reduce the density of standing trees within 100-200 feet of all structures.
  • Ensure adequate access for fire and emergency equipment and be sure that the house number is posted and easily visible to emergency responders. 
  • Keep grasses and weeds surrounding the home mowed to a height of less than six inches, through regular and ongoing maintenance.
  • Regularly clear pine needles and leaves from gutters and decks, and trim overhanging branches.
  • Stack firewood and locate propane tanks at least 30 feet from and uphill of structures.
  • Have an evacuation plan and a designated meeting place that all family members are familiar with.
  • Prepare a “grab and go” disaster kit with necessary family/pet items including important documents/photos, clothing, medications, food/water, phone charger, etc. so you are ready for immediate departure.
  • Make sure that you are signed up for Public Alert System with the Lake County Office of Emergency Management.

“Remember that addressing wildfire risk is not a one-time effort, and that flammable vegetation grows back over time,” Mason said.

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