Garfield County creates $500K fire contingency fund
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The Garfield County commissioners on Monday voted to create a $500,000 contingency fund within the sheriff’s budget to pay the costs of fighting wildfires in the area.
The commissioners previously considered setting up the fund in July of last year but did not take action on the matter until Monday. Money would be appropriated each year to keep the fund at the $500,000 level.
“I hope [fire costs] never exceed $500,000,” Sheriff Lou Vallario told county commissioners on Monday.
The commissioner’s move comes about a week after a 6-acre fire erupted in the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area earlier this month, leaving the sheriff’s office and the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District on the hook for about $14,000 of the $40,758 it cost to fight the fire.
Vallario said it’s those small- to medium-sized fires within the county that have caused problems for his and area fire protection districts’ budgets.
The cost of fighting wildfires in areas covered by local fire protection districts is split 50-50 between the sheriff’s office and the responding fire protection district, Vallario said.
The sheriff’s office covers the cost of the fire outside of those districts. The federal government also pays the cost of area fires, but the money they contribute depends on the size of the fire and who is in charge of it, said Commissioner John Martin.
The same principle applies to how the state chips in for firefighting efforts, Martin said.
“We don’t know how much we are going to spend from year to year,” Vallario told commissioners on Monday in support of the $500,000 contingency fund.
Local fire protection districts and other area officials have been grumbling for the past two years after the state has been requiring fire protection districts and counties to pay for firefighting efforts that exceed what local agencies can provide.
Many local fire chiefs have argued that they shouldn’t have to pay for those additional resources because they already pay significant costs by sending their fire crews, fire engines and other resources to battle area fires.
The county commissioners on Monday also approved a resolution that will allow the sheriff’s office to collect a $30 booking fee for new inmates to the county’s jail. By charging inmates $30 when they are booked into the jail instead, the county is expected to bring in about $80,000 to $90,000.
Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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