Flood, fire mitigation work around Colorado Springs will soon be complete, but land won't heal as quickly

The charred hill above Mountain Shadows in July 2012.

The threat of wildfires is something Colorado Springs residents know all too well, and emergency crews are making sure three high-risk neighborhoods know what to do if a fire threatens them.

The Pikes Peak Regional office of Emergency Management is conducting wildfire evacuation drills from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday in Crystal Hills, Crystal Park and Upper Skyway.

Map of Evacuation Drill Areas

Map of neighborhoods participating in evacuation drills. Courtesy of springs.gov

“It’s very important that those people who live in those areas right up against the forests are educated and have practiced and are intentional and know what to do in case a wildfire starts in their area so they can get out safely,” said El Paso County spokesman Matt Steiner.

Emergency teams chose the three neighborhoods because of their location. With the mountains and forest on one side, and winding roads on the other, getting large numbers of people out of the areas can be a challenge.

“The southwestern part of Colorado Springs and El Paso county… is an area that is pretty thickly forested and could be prone to a wildfire starting if the conditions are right,” Steiner said.

Participation in the drill is voluntary, but residents could receive emergency phone notifications as part of the exercise.

Once residents leave their homes, they will be directed to Holmes Middle School on Mesa Road. There, they’ll be served breakfast and get a briefing from local emergency responders.

Emergency officials have given out evacuation routes and instructions. Because the roads are so narrow, officials are watching for backups.

“That’s what we’re going to find out I guess and see what exactly what will happen and how the people will react,” Steiner said.

The traffic could also be a problem for emergency vehicles as they roam the area during the drill.

Despite predictions indicating that fire risk is below average this year, Gov. Jared Polis and emergency response officials urge residents to take drills like this seriously.

“Even though right now this month and potentially next month are wetter than normal, that’s why fire danger in Colorado is year round,” Steiner said.

“There’s always a chance of wildfire. … We need to always be practicing and always be prepared.”

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