by Sheila Gardner

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December 7, 2012
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Wildland fire suppression totals $9.2 million over 18 months

Wildland fire suppression in and around Douglas County the last 18 months totaled $9.2 million, and cost the East Fork fire district just over $1 million after cost sharing.

East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini provided commissioners Thursday with a summary of fire activity that he said was the costliest in the district's history.

The results:

-- 17,881 acres burned; of which 2,346 acres were privately owned;

-- 24 structures were lost;

-- Five firefighters were injured, but there were no documented civilian injuries;

-- Total fire suppression costs were $9,217,882; East Fork costs $1,059,342;

-- East Fork was reimbursed $249,234 through Fire Management Assistance Grants.

"The grants are available to local jurisdictions when the fire involved is close to utilities and structures," Carlini said. "It's a lengthy process, and you have to apply for it during the fire. You have to pay the bill first, then they'll reimburse you."

The chief also provide statistics for East Fork's participation in the Caughlin Ranch and Washoe Drive fires in Washoe County in November 2011 and January.

"Not a single agency can stand alone, and we don't have a 'fire season' anymore," Carlini said. "It's year-round."

Carlini said the May 22 TRE fire was the largest and costliest.

Over the seven-day incident, 7,153 acres burned, 17 structures were lost, and 780 personnel were involved.

The fire cost $3.4 million, with East Fork's share at $226,796.

"It was certainly the costliest," he said.

Carlini said the district's emergency fund took a big hit.

"Eleven years ago, we started building the fund, and almost made it to the maximum of $1 million," he said.

The beginning balance of $867,000 plus reimbursements and billable claims totaled $1.2 million. With payments of $1,059,342 from the past 18 months, Carlini said the estimated balance down $167,917.

"Each year, we put funds away. You can see how fast it was spent," he told commissioners.

Carlini said the department keeps track of overtime.

"We keep pretty close tabs on overtime costs, not overtime just for people who respond to the fires, but the cover staff as well," he said.

Overtime for the TRE fire was $41,568.66 out of a total of $140,422 for the 18-month period.

The fires also produced collateral issues and effects, Carlini said.

They include an increase in flash-flooding potential, loss of wildlife habitat, agriculture crops, and cultural resources in the Native American land holdings.

"Certainly, the view shed along the Highway 395 corridor suffered. It was a beautiful place, and will be lost for generations," he said.

"You guys are doing an incredible job," said Commissioner Doug Johnson, whose South County district was hardest hit by the fires. "You've been dealt some horrible cards."

Under consideration, Carlini said, is a Nevada Division of Forestry fire suppression program.

He described it as an insurance policy, and said each agency would pay a premium.

The state would provide without cost helicopters, hand crews, some apparatus, and guaranteed payment of approved fire costs.

Carlini said he was concerned because the program was supported by the state budget and not legislation which left him wondering where funding would come from in lean years.

He said the prorgram required "voluntary" participation, and questioned what the impact would be if any districts chose not to participate.

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The Record Courier Updated Dec 10, 2012 06:29PM Published Dec 7, 2012 07:53PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.