Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 9:07 am
BROOMFIELD — On the evening of June 23, Dr. Charles “Chip” Benight was celebrating his anniversary with his wife in a cabin in the woods well away from any of Colorado’s wildfires. But he wasn’t relaxed.
A fire had started in Waldo Canyon and was visible from Manitou Springs, where his two daughters were at the family’s home. More importantly, Benight didn’t feel he had the information he needed.
“I think the biggest threat that night was that I was talking to my kids and couldn’t see what was happening,” Benight, a psychologist at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said to a room of about 40 listeners at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield on Sunday night.
Ambiguity, he said, is hard for people.
Benight was one of six speakers at a specially convened session on wildfires as part of the 37th annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop hosted by CU-Boulder’s Natural Hazards Center. The workshop draws emergency management personnel and academics from all over the country to discuss floods and hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, and how to prevent a natural hazard from becoming a disaster.
The wildfire session was a late addition, aimed at sharing lessons learned in recent events. The Waldo Canyon Fire was the obvious headliner. Lectures focused around the psychological impact of both fighting and fleeing from the fire, and the role information plays in staying sane.
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