The Green Valley Fire District has helped other agencies fight wildfires 36 times this year, billing $491, 000 – more than five times higher than any previous year.
GVFD personnel have been deployed to help agencies as far as Montana and Oregon fight wildfires, dispatch calls and handle administrative duties. The reimbursement – they expect to bill another $60,000 in coming days – covers the district’s expenses for offering aid, said L.T. Pratt, GVFD community outreach coordinator.
GVFD was able to bill much more this year because it bought a Type 3 Engine after last year’s fire season and has deployed it several time, Pratt said. The $300,000, four-wheel drive engine carries much more water and equipment than the Type 6 engines often used during wildland fire season. It also has a nozzle in front that allows crews to fight fires from inside the cab.
Until this year, the most the fire district had billed during wildland fire season was $93,000, for 14 deployments in 2011. Last year, the department deployed staff 31 times and billed $32,000.
Since its inception, the GVFD has helped out agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. Reimbursement costs for salaries and equipment are hammered out in advance. Replacement, maintenance and fuel costs are taken into consideration when determining the price tag, along with how much it will cost the district in overtime to cover for the missing firefighters, Pratt said.
The last team deployed returned from the Orleans Fire in Northern California in late September; with wildfires continuing to rage in California, it’s uncertain whether GVFD will be called on to deploy again.
Not only were firefighters sent out of state a lot this year, but they had a lot of work right in their own backyard, Pratt said, citing the Sawmill, Frye, Mulberry and Burro fires.
“This season was severe in all respects,” he said. “Yes, we had a lot of fires we were able to deploy to, but they were also more severe.”
Pratt said the district’s administrators and firefighters deserve a great deal of credit – the administrators because they prepare for unpredictable wildland fire seasons through training and equipment purchases and the firefighters for being willing to help out other agencies and picking up the slack when their colleagues are deployed.
“This fire district hits on all cylinders,” Pratt said.