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Living In A Wildfire Zone? Get Prepared Now

U.S. Forest Service

Sunday marked one year since the start of the High Park Fire, which ultimately destroyed 259 homes northwest of Fort Collins. Hot weather now has many Coloradans thinking about this year’s wildfire season.

"We’ve had a good spring here on the Front Range, I think Mother Nature has given us a little window of opportunity," says Linda Masterson, a researcher and writer now living in Fort Collins. "I tell people, 'use that window wisely.' Get prepared now – you’ll sleep better knowing you have done everything you can do."

Masterson lost her home in the 2011 Crystal Fire northwest of Loveland. With flames closing in, she and her husband had just minutes to evacuate. Drawing on her experience, she has written a book for homeowners living in fire-prone areas called Surviving Wildfire.

Interview highlights

"I wrote Surviving Wildfire so no one else would have to learn their lessons the hard way. There’s nothing worse than standing there in your ashes, and thinking about all those things you should have done, and could have done, but didn’t do. And I really felt as if it was fate, that I needed to write this book."

Where to begin in preparing for wildfire

"The first thing you need to do is make your home and property as defensible as you can. Assess your personal risk, and follow defensible space guidelines. You also want to take every step you can to deny fire an entry. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can make the biggest differences, like switching to gravel mulch, or nonflammable deck furniture. You need to keep your gutters clear, move your firewood piles away from your house and downwind… there are so many things – big and small – that you can do to give your home a better chance of defending itself -- even if responders can’t reach you."

"I think people really are afraid to be too prepared – as if being prepared somehow invites disaster. But I’ve never talked to a survivor who wished they’d had less insurance, or spent less time getting their act together."


As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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