The Moab Valley Fire Protection District (MVFPD) held a meeting Oct. 27 to discuss out-of-district calls pertaining to Grand County. The meeting also served as a budget discussion where the fire department fleshed out future proposals regarding adequate compensation for those calls.
Much like the Moab Police Department and Grand County Sherriff’s Office, local firefighting agencies are understaffed and underfunded. One complication that arises when resources are spread thin like this, according to MVFPD Fire Chief Phillip Mosher, is a lack of proper qualifications. For example, a first responder could be called out to an emergency situation or a fire that they are not properly qualified to deal with.
Mosher spoke on the frustration of resources being so spread out, stating “If I’m going out to Thompson on a fire [call] … it’s an hour out there and an hour back, so at least two [hours] away from my family that I’m volunteering this time, much less the time it takes to fight that fire.”
Mosher also expressed concern about what might happen if there is more than one large fire at a time, saying “do we truly have the personnel and the resources to respond to both fires effectively at once?”
The consensus at the meeting was that $207,000 would be the amount required by the fire department to maintain service to the county, though that would only be enough to maintain the bare minimum of response to those calls.
Mosher expounded on the issue — especially when it comes to firefight equipment, explaining how even seemingly insignificant pieces of gear can become quite costly. “Right now just one stack of those radios cost $16,000 … and that’s just the repeater side,” Mosher said. He also said that just his department needs three sets of those radios.
According to Grand County Councilmember Curtis Wells, the agreement between the council members and MVFPD is that the fire department should be reimbursed for their efforts, and that the county should pay it’s “fair share” to recognize the strained situation the department is in.
Mosher said that each call that comes in racks up an estimated $3,000 tab, and at about 64 calls a year, the numbers add up very quickly. Wells recently made a motion to ammend the annual county budget, which would raise funding for MVFPD from $30,000 to a “much more adequate” $192,000 for the 2017 fiscal year.
“We need to pay our fair share,” Wells said. “We need to get square with them.”
Wells advised that appropriations for the district will be increased to meet the $192,000 mark for 2017, and that the 2018 budget has tentatively been raised to $100,000 until the MVFPD and county council can get a more accurate read on the departments needs going forward.