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Thanks in part to a grant from the El Pomar Foundation, The Friends of the Chaffee County Fire Protection District are in the process of finalizing the order for a Polaris UTV that will allow Chaffee Fire to access challenging terrain.

“We are thrilled that El Pomar felt it was a worthy undertaking and so appreciative of their support,” said Debbie Downey, president of Friends of Chaffee Fire. “This grant, the community and several local entities have made this all possible.”

The El Pomar Foundation, based in Colorado Springs, awarded a $10,000 grant for the purchase of the vehicle as part of a cycle that distributed $69,000 in grant funding to nonprofits in the central peaks region.

The Polaris Ranger Crew side-by-side utility vehicle would be outfitted with a 60-gallon water tank, fire-retardant foam and a pump, Chaffee Fire chief Robert Bertram said earlier this year.

“It’s kind of two-fold,” Bertram said, explaining how Chaffee Fire would benefit from the addition of the UTV to its fleet of vehicles. “One of the things is for wildland fires, for better access and quicker response when we get up into some of the forested areas that are harder to reach places. Trying to get our brush trucks up there is sometimes tough … it allows us to get in faster to find stuff that’s on fire. So, in combination with our drones, being able to locate the exact location and being able to be more maneuverable with the smaller unit, we’d be able to get to fires and catch them a lot quicker.”

The UTV would also serve as a valuable vehicle to transport the tools necessary to perform extractions on rough roads, Bertram said. He recalled the two-day mission to recover a badly-wrecked jeep from the steep slope below Iron Chest Road near St. Elmo in 2018.

Also awarded grants in this cycle, announced last week, were the Chaffee County Early Childhood Council, Salida Boys & Girls Clubs of Chaffee County, the Salida School District/Salida Early Childhood Center and Colorado Farm to Table Inc. of Salida.

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