Be prepared: Wildfire season is here

Safety, security, and facilities staff are ready. They want you to be ready, too.

June 17, 2013 | With fires burning in Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, and other locations, it's clear that last week was the start of this year's wildfire season in Colorado. At UCAR, "The groups responsible for emergency preparedness and business continuity have been preparing for this year's fire season," says Milenda Powers (Safety and Site Services). "We've been reviewing the organization's plans to keep people and facilities safe while maintaining essential business functions."

Fire at western edge of Boulder, Colorado
Smoke billowed above Boulder's western edge in October 2010, when the Dome Fire broke out near the Dome Rock formation in Boulder Canyon. More than 1,800 people were forced to evacuate, but no homes were damaged. The 84-acre fire was fully contained by the following Monday.(©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Last fall, Facilities Management and Sustainability completed a two-year project on the Mesa Lab campus to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improve the mesa's forest and grassland ecosystem. The wildfire mitigation work included forest thinning around buildings and the removal of dead, dying, and diseased trees. A few dead trees, called snags, were left in appropriate locations for use by some of the mesa's wildlife.

UCAR has ongoing relationships with the city, county, and state emergency planning agencies. During wildfire season, they keep watch on local conditions and stay in touch with those key agencies. For example, during last year's Flagstaff Fire, safety, security, and facilities staff kept watch on the fire's status, provided updates as conditions shifted, and coordinated the informal, precautionary evacuation of the mesa.

Here's what to expect at the mesa if a wildland fire threatens.

Wildfire in the vicinity: Precautionary building closure

If significant smoke were to reach the buildings' ventilation systems, or local officials issued a pre-evacuation notice, UCAR would announce the precautionary closure of the Mesa Lab and Fleischmann Building. Spark and SaSS staff would ask all public visitors to leave. The team would also

  • notify employees via email and voicemail to prepare to leave the mesa and work from a remote location (home or one of our other campuses);

  • make an announcement via the public address system (which serves both ML and FB) that the facility is closing to all but essential staff (about a half dozen people who manage building ventilation, security, and computing systems);

  • provide updates, when possible, via the "Getting more information" resources listed below.

Wildfire encroaching: Shelter in place

The Mesa Lab has been designated a safe place to shelter during a fire. Its concrete structure is not combustible, and ventilation systems can be shut down to limit smoke intrusion.

If a wildfire were encroaching on our property and/or the mesa road was obstructed, UCAR would

  • make an announcement via the public address system for everyone at the Mesa Lab to remain in the building and for FB occupants to join them there to shelter in place;

  • work closely with local agency responders during sheltering;

  • provide updates, when possible, via the "Getting more information" resources listed below;

  • make a second announcement when conditions permit safe evacuation under the direction of the local agency responders.

Getting more information during an emergency

The UCAR emergency response team strives to keep all staff informed when the potential for an emergency situation is developing, as it unfolds, and when the "all clear" can be sounded. Updates are provided as information becomes available via a variety of channels. Stay updated using any one of these options:

  • Call the UCAR emergency hotline: 303-497-1100

  • Check UCAR voicemail: 303-497-2799 and follow the prompts

  • Check email

  • Check the Emergency & Closure Information website:

If UCAR systems providing the above services are impaired by an emergency: