Fire Danger High

Fire danger in Buena Vista and the Upper Arkansas Valley remains high, as the Chaffee County Fire Protection District sign on CR 306 west of Buena Vista indicates to travelers.

The Buena Vista board of trustees last Monday, then the Chaffee County Fire Protection District board of directors on the following Wednesday voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement between the two entities that makes CCFPD “the exclusive jurisdiction having authority to interpret and enforce the fire code adopted by the town within the town’s boundaries.”

The IGA went into effect Thursday, CCFPD chief Robert Bertram said, meaning that the town has now divested from the Buena Vista Fire Department as a separate entity responding to fire calls.

“The town has entertained this concept in the past. The time was not right. With the growth we are experiencing and to maintain the level of safety and service to the citizens of town we see this as a very viable option,” said Buena Vista Mayor Duff Lacy. “We look forward to the combined efforts of Chaffee Fire and the Town to provide for the citizens of Buena Vista.”

Currently, Chaffee Fire has six paid staff and 40 volunteer firefighters. Additionally, it had four resident firefighters at the district’s station in Nathrop.

“The resident firefighter program is basically a 2-year internship. CCFPD provides training and housing in return for them working two 24-hour shifts per week,” Bertram said. “When the resident firefighters are not on shift, they still respond to any emergency call that comes in if they are available.”

The station in Nathrop has quarters for five resident firefighters.

“With the completion of our addition to our Station 4 in Poncha Springs, January 2022, CCFPD will have the capability to house six additional resident firefighters,” Bertram said.

In the terms of the IGA, the town would pay the fire district a first year prorated amount of $180,570 for 2021. The fee for a full 12-month period at 2021 valuation would be $282,141, based on the CCFPD Mill Levy and a specific ownership tax on all in-town properties, excluding those under dual protection which are already in the Chaffee Fire District.

That fee would replace what the town is currently paying for capital funding of BVPD, which Puckett said was “roughly $530,000.”

Not including Buena Vista’s payment, CCFPD was budgeted $1,239,051 for 2021.

Including its budget for major capital projects such as station renovation and the purchase of a new Brush Truck, the budget is $2,078,275.

The fee would be recalculated each year based on assessed value.

The impetus for the creation of the steering committee was a desire to reduce the duplication of services and effort between BVPD and Chaffee Fire, which has one station within town limits in Antero Circle and one just outside the town boundary on CR306.

CCFPD’s district covers the entirety of Chaffee County – including, as of last week, the town of Buena Vista – with the exception of the Salida / South Arkansas Fire District.

The district operates out of six fire stations throughout the county.

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