The Utah Interagency Fire Dispatch Center in Moab will stay where it is, now that agency officials have abandoned an effort to consolidate its dispatch centers throughout Utah.
Under the now-defunct plan, Moab’s center, which coordinates wildland firefighting efforts of several federal and state agencies, would have merged with a center in Richfield.
“As we moved through this process, it became clear that there was a great deal of concern and uncertainty among fire managers, partners and the local communities that we serve,” Ed Roberson, director of the Utah office of the Bureau of Land Management, said in a press release issued by Utah Interagency Fire on Feb. 16.
The Utah Interagency Fire executive committee, on Feb. 15, decided to quit pursuing the plan that would have taken Utah’s five current interagency regions and centers, and consolidated them into three regions, with centers in Draper, Richfield and Cedar City.
Most of the region now served by the Moab center, covering an area ranging from Price to Blanding, is several-hours’ travel distance (by land) away from Richfield, even though interagency officials said the consolidation of dispatch centers would not affect the distribution or location of fire-fighting resources or operations.
“From the start of this efficiency and cost-management effort, we said clearly that we were prepared to stop and adjust at any time if we could not offer the same level of safety and service to our customers,” Roberson’s statement continued.
Utah Interagency Fire voted to pursue consolidation of its centers in July. A meeting of interagency officials and dispatch center managers in October resulted in the creation of three proposed maps of possible interagency-region boundaries, according to a “dispatch center consolidation update” posted on the Utah Fire Info website (utahfireinfo.com) in December.
The proposal was not well received locally. The Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments wrote a letter opposing the plan.
“The governing board [of the SEUALG] has concerns about overall safety and communication for the area,” Bruce Adams, chairman of SEUALG, wrote. “Challenges exist with communication at the Moab fire center and moving the center to Richfield will only create more challenges. Fighting fires in southeastern Utah should have closer access than in Richfield. Location should be a strong factor in fighting fires.”
But, as a Feb. 16 UIF press release indicates, it was not the location issue that directly led to curtailing the plan. Rather, the plan — but specifically the idea that the change would have reduced access to fire-fighting resources other than the function of the actual dispatch — threatened to create rifts in the relationships between those partners and agency.
“The interagency team values the relationships between our employees, partners and local communities, and without their support, we do not believe that we can offer the same level of critical services that we currently offer,” said Brian Coltam of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, which is a member of the interagency group.
Along with the BLM and the state’s Forestry Division, the group also includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Nora Rasure, regional forester for the Forest Service’s Intermountain Region, said the interagency executive management team will continue to work to find other ways to solve the “key issues” that the consolidation plan was meant to address.
“Moving forward, the interagency team will address annual operations funding, long-term infrastructure needs and a continued commitment to finding a fair-share equitable funding model among the agencies.”