Sheriff’s department positions fire trucks as danger increases

Jeremy Browning

With the wildfire season picking up and fire bans on the horizon if dry weather continues, the Moffat County Sheriff’s office is hoping to get a jump on wildland fires by stationing three of the county’s 2.5-ton fire trucks at strategic locations in the county.

The trucks each hold 800 to 1,000 gallons of water, which helps with water accessibility, a critical aspect of fighting wildfires, especially in Moffat County, said Tim Jantz, a sergeant with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Department.

One of the trucks is parked at Jantz’ house in Maybell, along with a light engine that holds 300 gallons of water, which is used to mop up small fires.

The sheriff’s department stationed another truck north of town on County Road 38 for possible fires at the wilderness ranches.

The county put a third truck at the county shops near Vermillion Creek, an area where fires can get out of control quickly because of the vegetation and climatic conditions.

“The whole Douglas Mountain area is an area that gets hit by lightning storms,” Jantz said.

The sheriff’s department is legally responsible for fire control in all areas not covered by other agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, Craig Fire/Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service and others.

Jantz said the sheriff’s department has been preparing for this season since the first of the year, conducting training exercises and strategically placing trucks in the field.

A patrol car moves much faster than a truck carrying 1,000 gallons of water, Jantz said.

The trucks aren’t only for use by the sheriff’s department. Other agencies can use the trucks to combat fire emergencies.

An interagency agreement between local and federal agencies allows firefighters to respond to fires in areas outside their jurisdiction.

Before the agreement, Jantz said if BLM firefighters spotted a fire on land under the sheriff’s jurisdiction, they had to watch until it escaped to BLM land. This created a situation where fires could get out of control before the responsible agency arrived.

The interagency agreement allows firefighters to attack a fire as soon as it is discovered, eliminating boundaries between agencies and quickening response times.

Jantz said he is proud of the working relationships between the county and other agencies.

He said it is a model for other counties. The alliance conserves resources, saves money and helps to catch fires before they get out of control, Jantz said.

Mike Rieser, BLM fire management officer, also commended the interagency agreement.

“We’re much better able to deal with large natural disasters due to established working relationships,” Rieser said. “I go to fires all over the country and don’t see anything like this.”

According to Rieser, communication and organization during the first few days on a large incident can be difficult.

But close ties between agencies in Moffat County make those first few critical days more productive, Rieser said.

“We do so much coordination that when a big chaotic incident comes up, it makes the whole process a lot easier,” Rieser said.

BLM has been working with Moffat County since 1987.

In 2000, the two agencies integrated their fire plans to use the same format, operating guidelines and procedures, Rieser said.

“We mix-and-match all the time,” Rieser said. “Rather than leave Tim (Jantz) alone, we send guys to jump on board with him.”

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or

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