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County may consider creation of fire district

Sun Advocate reporter

Price fire fighters prepare one another to walk into the structure that is causing all the smoke during a fire in Miller Creek last July. If the county creates a fire district, the fire fighters in the county might be led under a unified command system.

At a regularly conducted Sunnyside City council meeting Tuesday city fire chief Gene Madrid brought the issue of creating a county wide fire district before the council.

According to Madrid there is over 10 million in funds available state wide for distribution to cities who are willing to incorporate themselves into a district. For Carbon County this new cooperative public agencies would include; Price, Helper, Wellington, East Carbon Sunnyside and Scofield.

Madrid reported that the proposed county wide fire district would use a template that seen success in the Salt Lake City area.

Beside the monetary incentive associated with the creation of a district there is also the benefit of long range fire protection planning that is available when all city fire departments come together. Through the creation of a separate subdivision the county would establish boundaries, rules of governance and practical facilitation for long range planning for providing optimal fire and emergency protection services.

If Salt Lake's "Unified Fire Authority" template is to be followed the fire district would; continuously and without interruption furnish fire and emergency protection services as needed within the territorial jurisdiction and boundaries of the cities and county. This protection would be substantialy the same or above the quality, scope and level as provided by the city department within the coverage area immediately prior to the creation of the district.

A governing board would be established to operate, have exclusive control, and jurisdiction over the fire district. In Carbon County's case the board would be comprised of the individual cities respective chiefs and other public safety officials. The officials as a group would then elect an executive staff to complete the board according to East Carbon City Fire Chief Darrel Valdez.

Baseline services provided by the district are as follows; administrative services, such as administrative personnel and equipment as determined by the board; fire prevention services, such as personnel, supplies and equipment as determined by the board in order to support a fire prevention bureau in charge of periodically inspecting businesses within the coverage area (concerning fire code infractions) and enforcing state and federal fire regulations; training services, logistics services and fire suppression.

Countywide fire and emergency services in which the county (not the members) shall budget monies from its countywide fund to provide countywide service. Should Carbon County stick with the Unified Fire Authority's blueprint the new fire district would prepare a budget request for the county for the services it would provide. Which would also include Hazardous Material Response.

The district would have power to make a disaster declaration. A member or the county may declare an emergency or disaster strictly in accordance with local ordinances, state statute or federal law. If and emergency or disaster is declared the chief shall assume the responsibly of emergency manager.

Fire Chief Madrid reported that the cities within the county seem to be on board with creating the district with the onlycatching point coming from East Carbon and Sunnyside cities.

Both cities were scheduled to go before the Community Impact Board (CIB) and request funds for public safety buildings. According to Sunnyside City Mayor Bruce Andrews the CIB told him in no uncertain terms that they would not give funding to either city unless they agreed to join their fire departments. The CIB sighted the towns close proximity and relatively small populations as the reasoning behind its position.

"We already have a combined ambulance service and police department, why not have one fire department," stated Madrid. He went on to report that Jason Llewelyn, Carbon County Emergency Services Director, also requested that the two cities join departments before they commit to the fire district.

Mayor Andrews purported that he would set up a meeting time with East Carbon Mayor Orlando La Fontaine to discuss the incorporation of the departments.

"There are a lot of funds available for public safety right now," concluded Madrid. "We need to come together for our common good."

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