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Colorado Wildfire Prevention

84-Year-Old Man Pleads Guilty for Sparking Park County Wildfire in 2023

HARTSEL, COLORADO – In a sobering reminder of the dangers posed by wildfires, a recent incident in Park County, Colorado, underscores the critical need for adherence to fire bans and the importance of wildfire prevention. Last April, the Badger Creek Fire, igniting south of Hartsel, consumed 41 acres and prompted evacuations, putting both property and lives at risk.

A Preventable Disaster

The fire, which did not claim any structures but caused property damage and inflicted superficial burns on a firefighter, was a result of negligence amid a burn ban. 84-year-old Robert Heneghan pleaded guilty to misdemeanor arson, having started a fire on his property that spiraled out of control. His plea led to a deferred sentence, and a potentially more severe felony arson charge was dropped.

Sheriff Tom McGraw highlighted the preventable nature of the fire, emphasizing the county’s Stage 1 Fire Ban at the time, which prohibits open flames, ashes, or any heat sources that could ignite a blaze. This incident serves as a potent reminder of the responsibilities every individual holds in preventing wildfires.

Fire Prevention Tips for the Community

In light of the Badger Creek Fire and with the aim of fostering safer practices, here are vital wildfire prevention tips to safeguard our communities and natural surroundings:

  1. Adhere to Local Fire Bans and Regulations: Always stay informed about and comply with local fire bans and restrictions, especially during periods of high fire risk.
  2. Safe Debris Burning: If debris burning is allowed, ensure it’s done in a controlled environment. Keep a water source nearby, and never leave the fire unattended.
  3. Equipment and Vehicles: Maintain equipment and vehicles to prevent sparks. Avoid parking hot vehicles on dry grass, which can catch fire.
  4. Home Safety: Create a defensible space around your home by removing flammable vegetation and materials that could fuel a fire.
  5. Campfire Caution: Only build campfires in designated fire pits, keep them small, and extinguish them completely before leaving.
  6. Report Unattended Fires: Immediately report any unattended or out-of-control fires to authorities to prevent the spread.

The Call for Vigilance

The Badger Creek Fire serves as a stark reminder of how quickly a situation can escalate when caution is cast aside. As Sheriff McGraw urged, vigilance and a proactive approach to fire safety are non-negotiable, particularly in areas prone to wildfires.

As our community continues to navigate the challenges posed by wildfire risks, let’s commit to these preventative measures, ensuring the safety of our environment, properties, and, most importantly, each other.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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