Colorado community turns tragedy into triumph

2015 Wildfire Preparedness Day Logoby Nicole Esan, NFPA Public Affairs Intern

When the Waldo Canyon Fire roared into the community of Colorado Springs and destroyed 347 homes in 2012, residents quickly recognized their risk and knew they wanted to protect themselves and their property from future wildfires. Those knowing they needed to do mitigation around their property included Saint Michael’s Church.

TwoCor, a local religious-based nonprofit manual labor workforce that uses its funding to help build bridges that prepare young men and women, ages 13-18, for the workforce through mentoring, work, and activities that assist youth in the Colorado Springs community, and volunteers from Saint Michael’s Church worked together with the City of Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) to perform wildfire mitigation on the church's five acre parcel on Saturday, May 2, as part of a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project. This group was one of 65 awardees of a $500 State Farm grant towards their efforts.

Wildfire Prep Day in CO Springs“Hopefully this will be a leading example of how things should look and motivate people to do it on their own,” said program coordinator Jeremy Taylor, who initiated the project with the church and the TwoCor volunteers.

As a part of their initiative to reduce wildfire risk in the community, this group assisted in the chipping, pruning and hauling of slash material. They also provided safety training and fire ecology education. The intent was to help the Saint Michael’s community address their overall wildfire risk to the community and reduce the risk of wildfire damage to their properties while hoping to inspire neighbors to reduce their risk, in an effort to become an overall mitigated community in Pine Creek Estates.

“A lot of folks have reached out (to say) that they wanted to help,” said Taylor. “Our efforts have been ongoing since last year when the Church reached out to us. They didn’t have the financial means to do a lot of the mitigation work so we met with them initially to assess their risk and what they can do overall to reduce risk in neighboring communities. We put them in the queue and offered to help.”

On Prep Day, May 2, nearly 50 volunteers worked on the mitigation project. The day began with a briefing on what was going to happen during the day and then the workforce was divided into groups across different locations throughout the property where they worked until lunch, which was provided by volunteers.

“Ultimately, with the combined efforts of the church and TwoCor, we can share the responsibility and make the community a safer place to live,” said Taylor.