Yampa Valley fire crews get helping hand, funds

Grant will help fund hand tools, protective clothing

Those troops manning the front line of wildfires now have reinforcements courtesy of the federal government.

Emergency Manager Chuck Vale said Routt County has received a $43,600 grant from the National Fire Plan, implemented by President Clinton after last year's deadly wildfires burned throughout the West.

"We did not have enough hand tools or protective clothing for all the people working on wildland fires," Vale said.

"This will be a big boost in the arm."

Vale has been trying since 1996 to slowly supply firefighters, road and bridge crews and sheriff's deputies with appropriate hand tools and protective gear. The $43,000 grant will get them there, Vale said.

Vale said the money will go to personal protection gear for Routt County's road and bridge crews who often have to help on wildland fire calls.

Fire trucks from the rural fire districts (North Routt, West Routt, Yampa and Oak Creek) will be equipped with proper hand tools that had been missing or in short supply.

There is one problem with the federal money. The government has given out $1.7 billion in grants so many of the fire crews throughout the country have money to spend as well.

Vale said crews will be ordering the same supplies, and he fears most of the equipment will be on back order. Many fire departments get their standardized fire equipment from the Government Service Agency.

Whatever the timeline, Vale said he's just happy to get the money. He hopes to have the new supplies in this summer, in time for at least part of the wildfire season.

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