Fire council plans for 2002

City may discuss option of rejoining organization

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— As the Wildland Fire Council starts planning for next fire season, city of Steamboat Springs officials say the city is open to the possibility of rejoining the council.

At 6 p.m. tonight in the Routt County Board of Commissioners' hearing room, the fire council will host its first meeting in preparation for the 2002 fire season.

"It is the first of quite a few meetings we will have," said Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak.

Invited to attend the meeting are representatives from the Steamboat Springs Fire Department and the Steamboat Rural Fire Protection District, both of which severed their ties with the Wildland Fire Council.

The city decided not to sign the council's Memorandum of Understanding because the county's budget did not provide adequate funds for the city to fight wildland fires, Steamboat Springs City Manager Paul Hughes said.

"It was not fair for us to stay in," he said. "We have agreed to keep an open mind about rejoining. I am sure we will discuss rejoining the council and signing the MOU."

Last year, the council consisted of Oak Creek, Yampa and West and North Routt fire protection districts, along with the state and U.S. forest services. By signing the MOU, these agencies were reimbursed by the county for manpower and equipment used to fight wildfires in the county this past year.

At tonight's meeting, Routt County Emergency Manager Chuck Vale is scheduled to discuss a study done by the council last year.

Steamboat Springs officials pointed to the 2000 study in arguing the need for additional resources from the county to fight wildland fires. The study concluded the county needs to provide its members with equipment and manpower to fight wildland fires.

The county did not act on the study's conclusions, so Steamboat Springs decided not to be part of the council.

"We left because the county's budget did not provide sufficient equipment or manpower," Hughes said.

Vale also will discuss reimbursements that were paid to each of the agencies for wildland fires this past year.

The Steamboat Fire Department was excluded from the reimbursements.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners declined to reimburse the Steamboat Springs department for the June 29 Walton Creek Fire.

The blaze on U.S. Forest Service land cost the Steamboat department close to $1,800.

The commissioners decided not to reimburse Steamboat because the department is not a member of the council. Commissioners also opposed the reimbursement because a majority of the council's membership did not favor the payment.

Stahoviak does not expect many changes in the county's wildland fire operations.

Last year, Routt County had a quiet fire season.

"We didn't have as many wildland fires as we had the year before," Stahoviak said. "Everything went pretty smoothly."

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