Wildfires considered biggest threat
By Mark Reaman
Local officials are updating the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan in an effort to stay on top of potential threats and to remain eligible for federal funds in case of an emergency. Gunnison County emergency manager Scott Morrill discussed the update with the Crested Butte Town Council at the May 4 council meeting.
“Updating the plan provides benefits including keeping the area eligible for FEMA grant programs and provides the opportunity to collaborate with other jurisdictions in the region to identify, plan for and mitigate against common risks,” he told the council. “We can look at the potential threats we face and mitigate them and be prepared to respond.”
The town of Crested Butte is one of those participating agencies through the marshal’s and community development departments. Morrill said probably the two biggest threats throughout the county are wildfires and flooding.
Human-caused and technological hazards will be added to the plan. Those include things such as having an “active shooter” situation and protecting the telecommunications and electrical grid systems in the valley.
A natural hazard situation such as a wildfire can impact things such as drinking water, electric and telecommunications services. The local managers are working to stay ahead of the situation and looking at ways to protect features such as the main points of the electrical grid and the town’s water treatment plant in case of wildfires.
Crested Butte chief marshal Mike Reily said the town’s water treatment facility was identified as a critical area and the emergency managers will soon be meeting with the state forester to assess the site and then take mitigation measures to protect it.
“We don’t want to lose electric, water and telecommunications systems in a wildfire,” said Reily.
Mayor Jim Schmidt said one of his concerns would be the safety of drinking water after an incident such as a wildfire.
Morrill said that was a legitimate concern and, “We do address things like debris and mud flows that could happen in such a situation but those are tough. It is very hard to protect against. The feds have crews that can help protect water systems.”
Morrill said he is not using an outside contractor to help update the plan. He said relying on local agencies seems to keep more participation and enthusiasm among the local emergency managers. “The plan will be more reflective of our community and save us money,” he said.
The updated plan will be compiled throughout the summer and then local government boards such as the Town Council will be asked to sign off and approve the update sometime this fall.