Dan Weinheimer: Routt County partners with fire districts for mitigation, suppression | SteamboatToday.com

Dan Weinheimer: Routt County partners with fire districts for mitigation, suppression

The March 26 article, “Routt County commissioners prepare for 2019 fire season,” missed some key details. The article implied that the county is reducing its costs at the expense of fire districts. This is not true nor is it the intent of the updated Wildfire Intergovernmental Agreement.

Routt County is not reducing the amount spent on wildfire suppression, instead the allocation was increased 30 percent in the 2019 budget to $40,000 and, as has been practice, any additional firefighting costs exceeding the budgeted amount come from county reserves on an as-needed basis.

Routt County relies on its partnership with the five fire districts of the county to suppress and manage wildfires. We have had an intergovernmental agreement for more than two decades that details how the entities work together to protect our community. The revised Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was amended through discussions with the five district chiefs over the last year.

The county had two goals with the development of this IGA — one, to comply with state statute and two, to build local wildfire suppression capability. State statute was modified several years ago to clarify that fire protection districts are financially and operationally responsible for all fires within their districts. The county acknowledges resource limitations of our districts and works as a partner to financially support suppression efforts.

As an example, four of the five fire districts in the county are primarily staffed by volunteers — people with day jobs that limit their ability to attend training and respond to fires — so in the IGA Routt County maintained funding to pay volunteers to respond to fires and perform other fire activities. 

Routt County is working with the fire districts to use our collective resources more effectively. We are leveraging existing resources to the fullest by limiting traditional reimbursement costs and repurposing that money to enhancing response capability and mitigating fire risks.

The idea is that Routt County is both increasing overall funding available to the districts and repurposing our funding allocations to be more strategic about limiting wildfire risks. The All-Hazards Multiagency Coordination Group, a standing committee including representatives of the fire protection districts, will help the county determine how these funds should be expended to achieve the greatest increase in needed capability.

Effective fire protection, mitigation and suppression depends on partnership between the fire districts, Routt County and the community.

Dan Weinheimer

Deputy county manager

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