Fire article shows county’s preparedness | SteamboatToday.com

Fire article shows county’s preparedness

Susan Cunningham

As officials across the state wait for wildfire season to begin, Routt County officials say this area of Northwest Colorado is ready.

Their words are supported by an article in the book “At Home in the Woods” recently published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency about Northwest Colorado firefighting. The article describes the collaborative efforts Routt County groups have made to prepare for wildland fires.

Routt County Emergency Services Director Chuck Vale said he was “pleased” with the article and with the cooperation that has prepared the county for the intense fires expected this summer.

“I think we’re as prepared in this county as we can be,” he said, and described the area’s improvements, such as adding equipment and personnel, and writing plans and agreements.

This winter, fire season could start a month earlier, or sometime in mid-May, Vale said. Other officials have predicted that 10 straight days of sunshine would result in perfect fire conditions in some places across the state, he said.

Each county has to create an annual operating plan that is approved at the county, state and federal level, Vale said. But over the past decade, Routt County has worked to create an intergovernmental agreement involving the county, city and local fire protection districts to highlight how the groups can work together during emergencies.

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Routt County’s successes could be useful to other communities, Vale said.

“For all the other communities out there that are struggling, here’s a county that figured out a way,” Vale said.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said that groups within the county have gone from pointing fingers at each other to figuring out how to work together, a move that has resulted in multiple benefits.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the collaboration resulted in smart government, which means less duplication of resources.

“I think this is what the citizens are asking governments to do, and I’m happy that we’re able to be a part of that,” Monger said.

In related business, county commissioners are expected to accept a trailer with emergency medical supplies today that is being donated by the Colorado Hospital Association. The trailer would provide beds and other supplies for up to 50 people in the event that local hospitals were overfilled because of a medical emergency, Vale said.

The donation comes as part of Homeland Security funds trickling down to the local level.

While accepting the trailer, the county wants to make sure that it is not responsible for replacing, staffing or stocking the trailer, commissioners said.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com