Today the Board of County Commissioners approved the agreement between the County and the Fire Districts that outlines how we respond, manage and pay for wildfire on all Unincorporated Non-Federal land in La Plata County. We hope this will be a model across the State as agreements are updated between the State and Counties.
With the Agreement approved, all fires on unincorporated non-federal land will be treated the same, a Cooperative Fire. Fire districts are responsible for managing and responding to wildfires and will provide mutual aid between each other, the County will be responsible for providing public information, evacuations, water trucks, mapping, food, water aand toilets at the request of the fire districts. On larger, dangerous or more complicated fires the County and Chief (of the affected district/s) will work cooperatively to meet each other's needs, address each other's responsibilities and give objectives to the incident.
We have always supported each other in the past. This Agreement builds on our long standing relationships and clarifies our roles and responsibilities. It increases our ability to fight fire, manage resources and protect the community. It supports the fire experts in being charge of fire and the public safety experts being in charge of the public well being; cooperatively.
In Colorado the Sheriff is the Fire Warden on all Unincorporated Non-Federal land in the County and is responsible to essentially back up the fire districts on fires. Fire districts form by the will of the people and are responsible to fight fires in their districts to the best of their ability. When a fire is beyond the ability of a district, the Chief requests that the Sheriff take responsibility for the fire. When a fire is beyond the capability of the Sheriff and the Districts, the Sheriff may request that the State take responsibility for management and cost of suppression. This Agreement places all local resources on a fire together to extend our abilities beyond what each could do separately.
Federal agencies, USFS, BLM and BIA, are responsible for fires on federal land including tribal. On fires that cross federal boundaries, we all (districts, county, state and feds) work cooperatively to manage the fires, suppress flames and protect people and property.
La Plata County's local responders are a family and work together to protect our community. The County and the fire chiefs have worked for several years to come to this agreement and we should all be proud of the achievement. Few counties across the State have such an agreement, but that should change quickly. We are also working hard with many other counties to recreate the agreement between the County and State called the "Cooperative Agreement", update the State's Emergency Fire Fund, expand the State's Wildland Emergency Response Fund, support the State aerial fleet, and improve operating guidelines between all fire agencies.
Wildfires are changing in La Plata County and across the State. We are at the leading edge of changing how fires are responded to across the State to get ahead of the bigger and more expensive fires experienced across the landscape.
A big thanks and congratulations to the:
Our Chiefs: Dan Noonan DFPD, Bruce Evans UPRFPD, Larry Behrens LPFPD, and Chris Anderson FLMFPD
La Plata County's Team: Butch Knowlton LPC SO and OEM; Tom McNamara, LPC OEM; Sheryl Rogers and Adam Smith LPC Attorneys; Joe Kerby, LPC County Manager
and Ryan McCulley, Colorado State Fire Management Officer for DFPC Southwest Region
La Plata County
Emergency Management Coordinator