by Pam Zubeck
As the Gazette reported that firefighters are battling a little blaze west of Lake George that had reached 10 acres, smoke from the High Park fire in Larimer County descended on Colorado Springs this morning. The hazy conditions prompted the city and El Paso County Public Health to alert the public to the health risks and warn that the Fire Department might be making a lot of medical-related runs today.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality warning for our area today, noting those most susceptible to problems are those suffering from pulmonary disease or respiratory conditions, young kids and the elderly.
To limit the impact the smokey haze has on you or others, the city advised those who are vulnerable to the smoke to:
— Stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment with doors and windows closed.
— If you must venture outside, wearing a surgical mask may help.
— Avoid exertion outdoors.
— If you are taking medications for respiratory conditions, be sure to use them as prescribed and keep them with you.
Meanwhile, University of Colorado Health, the city's soon-to-be partner in Memorial Health System, issued an advisory saying those wishing to help support victims of the fire should contact helpcoloradonow.org.
Agencies are pleading for money, but the link also contains ways to offer products and services, which are being reviewed and selected by the responder teams and support agencies.
Here's how UCH is helping:
UC Health is actively helping the response effort. Thankfully, so far there have not been any large increases in medical needs at our hospitals related to the fire. We of course stand ready for any potential increase in need for medical care.
We are also honoring our responsibility to support our community, beyond providing world-class health care, in the following ways:
* $25,000 donation to the Northern Colorado Chapter of the Red Cross to assist with High Park Fire response.
* $5,000 donation to the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, which is wholly dependent on donations.
* $5,000 donation to the Poudre Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, which is also dependent on donations.
* Café 1024 at Poudre Valley Hospital and Café 2500 at Medical Center of the Rockies will provide meal vouchers for affected community members and responders. Those vouchers will be distributed by the Red Cross.
* Assisting members of the Northern Colorado Public Communicators group to share and distribute fire response information.
* PVHS.org and social media (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube): Web and video content on health-related questions about the fire. We will continue to create and provide content that will help the community understand health concerns during this time.
* Offer, through the Red Cross, of 18,000 square feet of storage space in vacant UC Health space near The Ranch evacuation center. This space could help response agencies store food, water or other donated items.
* Offer, through the Red Cross, of sunscreen, hand sanitizer, clothing.
This is a difficult situation for all of us and our community. Continue to support each other and let us know how we can support you during the challenges.
For lots of interesting photos of the High Park fire, go to the Denver Post's website where they've posted photos submitted by readers, like this one.
Also, this morning, the U.S. Forest Service issued fire and smoking restrictions for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests:
PUEBLO, Colo., June 14, 2012…Beginning immediately, Stage 1 fire and smoking restrictions are in place on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Pike and San Isabel National Forests located in Chaffee, Clear Creek, Custer, Douglas, El Paso, Fremont, Huerfano, Jefferson, Lake, Las Animas, Park, Pueblo, Saguache, and Teller Counties, Colorado. Restrictions will remain in effect until they are rescinded.
Fire danger is very high and unless the U.S. Forest Service sees a change in the weather patterns, we will experience a high potential for large fires.
FIRE AND SMOKING RESTRICTIONS
1. Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire. (This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, charcoal grills, hibachis, and coal or wood-burning stoves.)
EXCEPTIONS: Campfires are permitted in U.S. Forest Service-developed campgrounds and picnic grounds, and only in U.S. Forest Service-provided, manufactured fire grates and grills. Petroleum fueled stoves, lanterns, or heating devices are allowed on all National Forest System lands, provided such devices meet the Underwriters Laboratories specifications for safety.
2. Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, in a developed recreation site
or while stopped in an area at least 3 (three) feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all
Even with the restrictions, visitors should be aware of weather conditions and be careful with the use of fire outdoors. Visitors should check with their local County Sheriff and U.S. Forest Service office or go to the web at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/psicc/ Fire Information to learn about specific restrictions.
Fire Safety Message
•Make sure that you can have a campfire and obey all fire restrictions, “Know Before You Go”,
•Keep a bucket of water and a shovel near the campfire,
•When putting a campfire out, drown it with water, stir the fire with dirt and more water until all the fuel is cold to the touch. Never leave a fire until it is out cold,
•If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool. Remember, DO NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.