Collectively, Bent’s Old Fort and the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site have accomplished decades of Firewise and wildfire prevention efforts. Photo: Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, National Park Service

LA JUNTA, Colo. – The Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Sites have recently become the first locations in Colorado to attain recognition as pilot Firewise Education Sites. A Firewise Education Site promotes wildfire preparedness and illustrates Firewise principles in action for the educational benefit of visitors, including teaching people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encouraging communities to work together to take action to prevent losses.

The Firewise Education Site program was initiated by the National Fire Protection Association as a way to highlight the implementation of Firewise principles by locations that do not meet the criteria of being actual “communities.” NFPA is partnering with the Colorado State Forest Service to provide technical assistance to the national historic sites as they pursue this designation, which specifically emphasizes the need and importance for doing wildfire mitigation in plains communities.

Working together to achieve these Firewise Education Site designations included Alexa Roberts, superintendent for the Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Sites; Adam Heberlie, biological science technician for Bent’s Old Fort; Karl Zimmermann, chief of operations for the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site; and Donna Davis, district forester for the CSFS La Junta District.

“As a firefighter, I know some of the most dangerous fires fought are in the grass fuel type,” said Heberlie. “Due to the fast-moving nature of these fires, many firefighters have died or became entrapped by the fires. It is really great that awareness is being brought here so people can be educated and begin to prepare for the next one.”

Collectively, Bent’s Old Fort and the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site have accomplished decades of Firewise and wildfire prevention efforts, both on the sites and across boundaries with the many communities in southeast Colorado.

“They demonstrate a proactive fire mitigation strategy that is pivotal in protecting and enhancing our national historic site heritage,” said Davis. “It is a great pleasure to see Bent’s Old Fort and the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site receive this designation.”

The Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Sites’ annual Firewise education event will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on March 11. With assistance from Boy Scout Troop 113 from Centennial, staff will be hauling pre-cut trees to a nearby road for splitting as a part of the site’s firewood collection project.

Any community members willing to assist in moving the firewood, and who want to see the site and learn about wildfire risk reduction efforts, can contact Heberlie at 719-383-5014. He also can be contacted for general information about the Firewise event.