Church Park Fire bill exceeds $1.5 million
Fighting fires isn’t free. The massive initial attack that helped firefighters bring the Church Park Fire under control earlier this month cost the U.S. Forest Service an estimated $1.43 million in the first week alone, according to public affairs specialist Tammy J. Williams. By the time the incident is completely wrapped up that figure is projected to reach $1.5 million. The bulk of that cost, Williams said, some 43 percent, was spent on aircraft, including heavy air tankers, helicopters, lead planes, air attack planes, and retardant for a total of $619,163, according to flight invoices. The remaining cost was estimated based on the amount of time each resource worked on the fire each day. “Since we don’t have access to the exact dollar-per-hour cost of each person on the fire, or a particular individual’s cost to government per hour, a national average cost for a person, or a crew, or an engine, etc, is set up in the computer program and then multiplied by the number of hours the resource worked,” Williams said. An estimated 11 percent of the total comprises equipment cost, including fire engines, WIlliams said. Some 23 percent was spent on paying the U.S. Forest Service’s 20-person firefighting crews and another 13 percent paid other personnel, supervisory and overhead costs. An estimated 5 percent was spent on camp support, including food and showers, and some 3 percent was spent on supplies other than food – cache van, fuel, etc. All those costs are being paid by federal agencies, Williams said. The U.S. Forest Service will pick up 93 percent of the bill and the Bureau of Land Management will pick of the remaining 7 percent of the bill, based on acreage of the fire. Grand County paid for all Grand County resources, including personnel and equipment, for a total of about $113,000, according to Grand County Emergency Manager Trevor Denney. Creating a fire tally is difficult, Denney added, because much of the cost is considered “soft,” such as the contribution of two road and bridge bulldozers, the water tender, the ambulance, the county employee time, the Incident Command Post facilities and the park for the fire camp – things that the county owns or wages that would have been paid anyway. Some of the money spent made its way back into the local economy, Williams said. Firefighters purchased their food individually on Oct. 3 -the day the fire broke out. On Oct. 4, all the food was purchased locally, and caterer Sherry Kent of Showboat Catering/Drive By Pies in Granby served three meals on Monday to about 100 firefighters. After that, the national contract requires the Forest Service to use a national caterer. Some cases of bottled water were purchased locally, and City Market donated a truckload of ice. In addition, the American Red Cross paid for two pallets of bottled water at Safeway, and City Market donated the refrigeration truck and 2 pallets of bottled water. The Forest Service also purchased ice from City Market and Safeway. Approximately 25 portable toilets were rented locally. Verizon provided additional emergency cell phone service. All fuel for the duration of the incident was purchased locally for approximately 50 trucks and vehicles. Snow Mountain Ranch’s Neil Willems donated potable water and the disposal for gray water. Most of the fire personnel camped out, but a few hotel rooms were purchased, the Forest Service spokesperson added.