Firm chosen to work on fire plan

A land management consulting firm should begin work today on fire plans for communities in Moffat County.

Moffat County Commissioners voted Tuesday to hire Resource Logic, a Craig land and wildlife management consulting firm, to work on the fire plan. The team plans to begin scheduling meetings Thursday with Greystone landowners by gathering data and preparing maps of the community.

"In the request for a proposal, it specifies the end product will be so well-defined the Bureau of Land Management could pick it up and implement the plan. There will be no more planning after this," said Moffat County Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock.

Resource Logic bid $34,700 to complete fire plans for the communities of Greystone, Bakers Peak, Wilderness Ranch and Knez Divide. The commissioners had $30,000 in grants from the Bureau of Land Management and $8,000 budgeted to pay for the work.

The team will host community meetings to discuss proposed fire management plans, periodically update landowners on the planning process, and keep in touch with landowners on the status of fires during the fire season, according to Resource Logic's proposal. They will make fire management recommendations to the Moffat County Sheriff's Office and commissioners and write plans for communities with high fire risk.

It's important that the first plans turn out well because the county will present the plans with grant applications to fund future work, Commissioner Les Hampton said.

The staff includes Meeker resident Ann Franklin, a natural resources specialist who worked on the fire plan for Moffat County during the initial planning stages. Franklin's job was cut last year to help balance the 2004 budget, but the Moffat County land use board had advised the commissioners to bring Franklin back to work on the final phase of the plan.

Moffat County resident Dale Thompson will be project manager in charge of fire use coordination, community meetings and plan development, field data collection, fuel reduction plans and final plan preparation. Jeff Whilden, a Moffat County Road and Bridge employee, will collect field data and produce maps.

The next step, after the site plans are complete, will be requesting grants to implement the project, Comstock said.

But though the team will make fire management recommendations to the sheriff's office and commissioners, it's unlikely the county can afford to let fires burn on private property, rather than extinguish them, Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg said.

The fire plan gave landowners and the county the option to use fire, that is, to let fires burn when conditions were right and the fire could be beneficial to the land. But fire use is more expensive than fire suppression because the deputies must be on site while the fire is burning, a process that can last for days.

"Our resources will get used like that. We don't have the personnel or the money," Deputy Tim Jantz said. Hoberg estimated fire use would cost the sheriff's office at least $1,000 a day.

But if a fire is close to public land or seems as if it might move from private onto public land, the BLM could assist the sheriff's office in managing it and letting it burn, Hoberg said.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com

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