Fire funds certainly are not burning a hole in state officials’
The Picnic Rock fire, which began March 30 in Poudre Canyon, was
responsible for devastating almost 9,000-acres of land northwest of
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
“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
“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
“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.”