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Vail police chief, fire chief urge residents to create wildfire evacuation plans

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August 21, 2020, 11:54 am

With several small wildfires burning in Eagle County — some of them now in the east end of the county — and smoke filling the Eagle River Valley, the Town of Vail this week sent out this joint message from Police Chief Dwight Henninger and Fire Chief Mark Novak:

As our friends and neighbors in portions of Garfield and Eagle County are taking part in evacuations and pre-evacuations related to the Grizzly Creek Fire, we’d like to recognize the well-coordinated response that is taking place by our local, state and national responders. The number-one priority is to keep everyone safe and we’ve been impressed by the cooperation from everyone involved. Let this fire serve as a reminder to all of us that there’s no better time than now, no matter where you live, to prepare an evacuation plan well ahead of a future emergency.

The hot and dry weather conditions we’ve been experiencing make us all susceptible to a fast-moving wildfire. During these circumstances, there may not be time for a pre-evacuation notice. Instead, you may be asked to evacuate your home within 5 minutes of being notified. Will you be ready? Do you and your family have a plan? Where will you go? Who will you notify that you’re safe? If it’s a family member out of state, does everyone know the phone number? Where is a good reunification place outside of the fire area for your family if you’re not together when you must evacuate?

Following the 6 P’s of Preparation are a good starting place. Have all these items in one place for a quick getaway with a car fully fueled or charged:

  • People and Pets — a change of clothing for humans and a cage or carrier, muzzle, leash and food for pets
  • Papers — phone numbers and important documents such as Social Security card, driver’s license, passport, medical records and insurance information
  • Prescriptions — vitamins and eyeglasses
  • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia — video recordings of the contents of your home for the insurance company, if your home is damaged
  • Personal computers — information on hard drive and removeable memory
  • Plastic — credit cards, ATM cards, plus cash

In addition to the 6 P’s of Preparation, now is a good time to make sure that you are registered for Eagle County’s emergency notification system, ECAlert.  You can register or update your alert preferences at ECAlert.org  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mass sheltering is a last resort. Think now about where you will shelter if there is an emergency. Some options include sheltering with family, friends or in a hotel that is not likely to be in the evacuation zone. Information on the Town of Vail’s evacuation plan can be found at https://www.vailgov.com/evac.

Eagle County’s excellent fire information site is http://www.ecemergency.org/ and for additional information on preparing for an evacuation see https://www.ready.gov/evacuation or https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/ready-set-go/.

In difficult times like we are experiencing in Eagle and Garfield counties; preparation and planning helps us focus on a task that is within our control. Let’s all keep those in the west of our county and the firefighters working the fire in our hearts and minds. If you know someone who may need help to evacuate, please offer to help them prepare now!

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