Apr 152004
 
Authors: Adrienne Hoenig

Fire funds certainly are not burning a hole in state officials’

pockets.

The Picnic Rock fire, which began March 30 in Poudre Canyon, was

responsible for devastating almost 9,000-acres of land northwest of

Fort Collins.

The exact final cost to contain this fire has not yet been

calculated, but experts estimate the total cost to be somewhere

between $2.1 and $2.8 million.

“Right now we’re still in negotiations with Colorado State

Forest Service,” said Don Griffith, emergency services coordinator

for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. “Larimer County could

possibly have to pay upwards of $100,000 for this fire.”

Larimer County, CSFS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency

will each play a part in paying for the Picnic Rock fire’s

suppression and containment.

FEMA is a federal fund established to help states meet the costs

of unexpected natural disasters.

“Because of the threat to life, property, watershed and

community infrastructure the Picnic Rock fire qualified for a FEMA

fire management assistance grant,” said Richard Homann, fire

division supervisor for CSFS. “The state has to pay the bills for

the fire and then we will submit a claim to FEMA.”

FEMA will supplement up to 75 percent of a fire’s eligible

costs.

“It’s mainly for suppression costs,” Homann said. “Other

expenses are eligible, but might not necessarily get it.”

Cleaning up the Picnic Rock fire used up about all the CSFS’

emergency fire fund had to offer.

“This fire basically did tap that out,” Griffith said.

Gov. Bill Owens is expected to refill the fund with somewhere

near $5 million.

“We’re looking at another bad fire season,” Griffith said.

A fire like Picnic Rock can cost upwards of $6,000 per day to

fight, said Erik Nilsson, director of emergency management for

Larimer County.

“You start to get 10 or 15 crews on a fire and all of the sudden

that’s a lot of money,” Nilsson said.

The expense does not stop with fire crews. Air tankers,

helicopters and other heavy-duty equipment can cost thousands of

dollars an hour to operate.

“It’s hundreds of little incidentals and big incidentals, so

firefighting is an expensive proposition,” Nilsson said.

Many fire experts did not foresee such a large fire so early in

the season.

“At this time of year we’re not really geared up yet,” Nilsson

said. “Nobody was counting on spending this much money on a single

fire in April.”

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