Burning Mountains FD seeks tax increase
Burning Mountains Fire District chief David Yowell knows exactly where the money is going if voters approve the district’s proposed mill levy increase on Nov. 5.
“I figured what we needed to the dime,” said Yowell, who moved from the Falcon Fire District east of Colorado Springs to take the Burning Mountains fire chief job last April.
The district is asking for an increase of 1.477 mills added to the current levy of 4.625 mills. If the increase is approved, the mill levy rate would rise to 6.102 mills.
This means that a commercial property worth $500,000 would be taxed an additional $214.17 a year, and the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $28.77 more in taxes each year.
The mill levy increase, which amounts to $148,620 per year, is earmarked to fund three daytime paid firefighters, upgrade water supply equipment and purchase new district vehicles.
Yowell is the only paid staff person at present, but he said the district needs additional paid staff, especially during daylight hours.
“We have a very dedicated, all-volunteer staff of 45,” Yowell said. “However, if we have an emergency during the day, I can only count on three to six firefighters responding.”Fires don’t care if it’s day or night. Most of our firefighters work out of the district, either in Glenwood, Carbondale or beyond. And even those firefighters who work within the district, it’s up to the employer whether or not an employee can be released to answer a call.
“That’s why we need paid personnel,” he said.
Burning Mountains Fire District covers 440 square miles, which runs a half-mile west of Canyon Creek, 3.5 miles east of Rifle, and includes the towns of Silt and New Castle. Burning Mountains, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), also oversees portions of the White River National Forest.
Yowell said that this past summer of drought and fire also proved the need to upgrade fire tenders, or water transport equipment.
“Currently, we only have one tender, which limits our capabilities,” he said of the old, converted garbage truck the district uses to transport water to fires. “We need newer tanker trucks that we can use in the case of multiple fires.”
Drought is another reason to beef up the fleet. During plentiful runoff years in rural areas, Yowell said, it’s usually not a problem to access a neighbor’s pond or irrigation water to fight a neighboring ranch’s fire.
But in times of drought, the district needs proper equipment to pull water from sources such as the Colorado River, Harvey Gap and city water supplies.
“In a drought, we can’t always rely on accessing private ponds,” he said. “We need increased capabilities.”
Yowell said new tenders, which can hold up to 2,200 gallons of water, would enable the district to do just that.
Finally, Yowell said that the district is requesting funds for capital improvements – and, specifically new vehicles.
“The average truck age in the district is 10 years,” he said. “Not too many people drive a 10-year-old vehicle.”
If voters approve the mill levy, fire district property owners would start paying the tax in 2003.
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