Steamboat Springs Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale, who has worked for Routt County government for 17 years, has accepted a position with the Colorado Division of Emergency Management that begins Jan. 12.
Vale will be the state agency's northwest region emergency management field manager, serving Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties. Although the position will require extensive travel across 114,000 square miles of Northwest Colorado, Vale will continue to live on his family's ranch in North Routt County.
"We're going to miss having Chuck here as our emergency manager," Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. "If there ever was a disaster or emergency, Chuck is the person I would trust my life with."
Vale was previously the fire chief at Yampa Valley Regional Airport for 10 years and has been involved with emergency management in Routt County for 38 years in volunteer and paid capacities. Vale has helped managed a variety of incidents in Routt County, including blizzards, gas explosions, 25 aircraft accidents and countless wildland fires, including more than 200 in 2002. The largest, the Hinman Fire, burned about 15,000 acres and is the worst wildfire in Routt County history. Vale said he is grateful he wasn't even busier.
"We've been lucky in this county," said Vale, noting the presence of YVRA, an underground mine and a major ski area in the county. "They're all huge, about-ready-to-happen things."
In taking the job with the state, Vale said he will be "carrying on a passion that I have with a little different hat." His job responsibilities will include providing technical assistance to local agencies in the region in preparation for, during and after major emergencies and natural disasters. He also will offer training, help develop and validate emergency plans, and work to improve interagency cooperation.
"Chuck has always been so good at bringing all the entities together," Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.
Vale noted that the duties are similar to his current ones, and that he wants to do for the region some of the things he's done for Routt County, such as forming a joint information system and center.
County Manager Tom Sullivan said he will review the job description for county emergency management director with local emergency services officials and hopes to advertise the position by the end of the year. The vacant position is not one that will be frozen as a result of budget difficulties.
"We've placed value on this position in the past," Commissioner Doug Monger said, "and we're not changing course now."
The county will hold a reception for Vale from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 5 in the commissioners' hearing room at the historic Routt County Courthouse. The event is open to the public.
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