Steamboat Springs Oak Creek Fire Chief Chuck Wisecup on Tuesday asked Routt County commissioners to give him and his volunteer firefighters the tools to do their jobs better.
Wisecup was referring to the 1997 Uniform Fire Code, a nationally recognized set of regulations designed to protect and assist firefighters in reaching threatened homes more quickly.
The Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs Rural fire protection districts have adopted the fire code, but state law does not allow fire protection districts to enforce the code without the county's permission.
"Without these documents in place, I can't do my job and my employees can't do their jobs," Wisecup said.
County commissioners agreed, unanimously giving the Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs Rural fire protection districts teeth to impose the code.
The fire districts and the county approved an agreement that gives the fire districts authority to review building plans and approve or deny building applications that are not in compliance with the code.
Rural fire districts have long looked for ways to alleviate the risk of wildland fire to homes in rural areas. Many of the roads that lead to homes within rural fire protection districts are steep and narrow. The rough terrain presents serious challenges to emergency vehicles trying to reach endangered homes as quickly as possible.
The county adopted road standards designed to give firefighters a speedier access to residential areas.
The county commissioners said they preferred to take action sooner rather than later.
Routt County is growing and with that growth comes more subdivisions in rural areas that demand fire protection, County Commissioner Dan Ellison said.
"I'm not in favor of passing a regulation when someone is killed," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
The county and the Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs Rural fire protection districts were in a position to make an agreement Tuesday night only after months of negotiation.
"Through all of this there has been quite a lot of give and take," County Attorney John Merrill said.
County officials and the two fire districts sought a compromise between property rights and public safety issues, Merrill said.
Some people are concerned fire districts will be hard-nosed when it comes to looking at building applications.
Under the agreement, people whose building applications are denied can present their cases to a county-appointed Board of Appeals.
The agreement has also drawn fire from people in the construction industry who fear the road standards will increase building costs.
"I see this as a costly thing for the people who are living in the rural community and the people who are going to live in the rural community," local excavator Ed Andrew said.