This fire season is predicted to be one of the worst ever. In fact, just after the Centaurus High School CAP class chose wildfire prevention as their action project, two wildfires sprang up in Colorado and it was only April! Climate change, parasitic disease and an abundance of fuel are all adding up. When we were on our overnight backpacking trip we realized that there was something we could do to help keep at least a small part of Colorado safe.
We began by learning all we could about wildfires and their causes. Then came the exciting part, learning about firefighting. We visited Lafayette Fire Station 1 to see what the folks there do. We learned that the firefighters are busy all day running medical and fire calls, doing training, keeping the station running and getting called out to local wildfires. We got to meet the station dog and we even got to use fire extinguishers. Then, the next week the Boulder Fire Wildland Crew came to Centaurus. They taught us all about the wildland side of firefighting and let us try on their packs. They told us about their annual wildland pack tests and we got inspired. During our final exam we tried it out. We loaded our packs as full as they could get (we tried for 45 pounds) and attempted to walk three miles in 45 minutes. It is SO much harder than it sounds. One of the students said, “I never knew how hard their job was and how much they do to keep us safe!”
After learning all about firefighting the class went to do a fire mitigation project at Cal-wood Education Center. We brought some friends to help us and we met Angie, the Cal-wood Natural Resource Manager who taught us all about managing the fuel in the forest. We thinned trees to create a defensible space in the forest, built slash piles and stacked wood. It was hard work, but it felt good to help take care of that beautiful area that has become special to us.
What can you do to prevent devastating unintentional wildfires? Of course you should obey all firebans and put your campfire out completely- the coals should be cool to the touch. There are other things you might not have thought about that can start a wildfire, like pulling over to the side of the road onto dry grass (the heat from your car can actually ignite the grass), hitting a rock with your lawnmower and making a spark, target shooting, and throwing cigarette butts out the car window (gross!). And one more important way you can help is to do all you can to slow down climate change by eating lower on the food chain, monitor your energy use and carpooling. Along with the Centaurus CAP class, YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES!
Many thanks to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), The Larrk Foundation, PeyBack Foundation, our donors, and our partners for making this program possible and a big thank you to Lafayette Fire Station 1, Boulder Fire Wildland Crew, and Cal-wood!
See more photos from our project here!
Written by CAP Instructor Erin Angel