Credible Information on the Consolidation of EC/IC/NF Fire Protection Districts

20 Oct 2023 17:47 #11 by ScienceChic
Good questions, thank you ramage. The mill levy is specific to fire district residents. Anyone who resides within Elk Creek Fire Protection District who also lives in Park County will also have the same mill levy increase for the fire protection district. The same goes for North Fork Fire Protection District residents who live in Douglas County. Residents who live in Park County or Douglas County who are not in ECFPD or NFFPD, but under the jurisdiction of a different fire protection district (Platte Canyon Fire, for example) will not be subject to this mill levy as they pay a different mill levy specific for their district; so no, it is not county-wide.

Specific to Elk Creek Fire Protection District alone, depending on how you vote, yes, the fire district could experience a reduction in our mill levy rate due to the fact that the 2013 mill levy that was passed expires this year (it was a 10 year sunset on that mill levy). You are correct in that you could vote NO on the consolidation (measures 7D and 7F) and vote yes to maintain our current mill levy rate of 12.5 (ballot measure 7E). Alternatively, you could vote no on 7E which would result in a reduction of our mill levy rate to 10.0. Inter-Canyon and North Fork Fire do not face this situation so they only have 2 ballot measures, each of which have to pass for consolidation to occur.

Regarding CRRF (out-of-district fire assignment) salaries to firefighters: no, absolutely NOT, the district has not kept those firefighter salaries. My apologies if I was not clear in my explanation. ECFPD receives compensation by the hosting agency requesting outside resources that we send, and that hosting agency pays ECFPD (one amount for personnel, another amount for apparatus) and the firefighter's salaries plus a per diem. Those aren't paid directly to ECFPD, but rather the state of Colorado which is in turn paid to Elk Creek Fire when they request the reimbursement. In essence, what happens is that ECFPD pays their salary, but gets reimbursed by the hosting agency via the state of Colorado after the fact (and passes through the additional per diem to those who went on assignment) so it becomes a net zero on our books in terms of salary for the time they are gone (ECFPD keeps reimbursements for the missing personnel and apparatus that is due to the district itself only). If you'd like a better explanation, you should watch any of the ECFPD Board meetings, the Board Treasurer, Sharon Woods, creates extremely helpful graphs to display what's going on and describes in detail what is paid and when. They can be found on MMT's YouTube Channel here: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIXT_QRCs...pmqr5-5v1MhA5BpuzLNI .

"Are we the people living within the ECFD to be penalized for fiscal responsibility?"
I'm not sure I understand this question, could you elaborate on how would you be penalized for the district being fiscally responsible?

Thanks!

"Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” -King T'Challa, Black Panther

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. ~Winston Churchill

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20 Oct 2023 18:20 #12 by Rick
I apologize for a slight off topic...

After the Cameron Peak fire came very close to hitting Red Feather, All residents were urged to clean up excessive amounts of dead fuel/slash. They were also asked to remove firewood stacks closer than 50' from a home. I live in a subdivison of RF that has a small HOA fee, so the HOA does have some power to force compliance. This year people with excessive slash were given a deadline to remove their slash, or ne fined. I have no problem with any of it, but many are pushing back.

Those of us who are blessed to be living in the mountains have to do everything we can to protect them. Maybe it's just because I'm back after a 40 year absence that I'm so grateful for where I live...

Are the districts focusing at all on what residents can do to help the firefighters, to limit the amount of fuel?

It was always the women, and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers−out of unorthodoxy

George Orwell

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21 Oct 2023 01:24 - 21 Oct 2023 01:26 #13 by ScienceChic
Absolutely they are. The creation of the Fuels Crew and incredibly successful Chipping Program that started at Elk Creek Fire and was expanded to Inter-Canyon Fire has directly benefited residents and their ability to remove fuel from their property at no cost (and consolidation would help speed its adoption into North Fork Fire). Chipping program annual report:

In addition, they've won COSWAP grants that would provide matching funds directly to residents who hire contractors to perform full mitigation projects (created from a fire district Home Assessment) around their homes. Those efforts complement the Conifer Wildland Division and Wildland Module's other grants (almost $2M) to do large-scale mitigation/fuels reduction in Glenelk, the Foxton Rd area, Preserve at Pine, Douglas Ranch, and Lower North Fork that benefit the community as a whole.

The Home Assessment Program that was implemented several years back (I think 2018 or so) allows homeowners to pay a nominal fee for the Conifer Wildland Mitigation Specialist to come out and spend several hours reviewing their home and property, and creating a report of what they should do to reduce their risk from wildfire. If they complete all of the recommendations, they can take that report to their insurance agency and see if they can get discounts for mitigation. That program is so successful, it's booked out months ahead without us doing calls for sign-ups. Being able to hire that position full-time is due solely to passing the past 2 mill levies, and we really need 1-2 more full-time Wildland Mitigation Specialists.

Lastly, the Community Ambassador Program was created in 2020 to help ECFPD and ICFPD better reach their residents with neighborhood ambassadors. Neighbors who could help bridge the communication between residents and the fire department. Those Ambassadors relay info such as the new grant opportunities, when the chipping program is opening for registration, the vetted mitigation companies, how to sign up for emergency alerts, get address signs so your home can be found in an emergency, etc. Last I heard, we had only a handful of planning units without ambassadors, and they've been immensely valuable to both their communities and the districts with their efforts.

"Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” -King T'Challa, Black Panther

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. ~Winston Churchill
The following user(s) said Thank You: Rick

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21 Oct 2023 08:56 #14 by ramage
SC,
I was using your language in describing how the ECFD lives within its budget. "Elk Creek Fire has a proven track record of being fiscally responsible and meeting the promises made with the past 2 mill levies approved by voters."
The penalization is the 28% increase in the mill rate. Correct me if this is wrong, the mill rate increase is required to meet the mill rate of the Intercanyon FD.

In the process of acquainting myself with this issue I went to both sites, ECFD #1 and ICFD #3. Access to rte 285 appears to be easier from ECFD #1.

Of historical interest is the original ECFD #1 burnt down in 2005 and was subsequently rebuilt at its present location.

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21 Oct 2023 09:06 #15 by Rick
That's good to hear, SC... thanks forf that information.

I'm going to be volunteering with the Crystal Lakes FD on a limited basis until I retire and then I'll help with vehicle maintenance plus whatever else I can do to. For now I'll just be directing emergency vehicles when they call me but at least I feel like I'm doing something to help.

It's good to know there's a comprehensive plan to help protect the area I grew up in.

It was always the women, and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers−out of unorthodoxy

George Orwell

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21 Oct 2023 23:28 #16 by ScienceChic
ramage, I'm sorry, I still don't understand how Elk Creek Fire being fiscally responsible is a penalization for you (or other district residents)? A mill levy request isn't a penalty, it's a request to the voters to approve additional funding to the district from you the property owner. You can choose to approve it or not. My point about Elk Creek Fire keeping its promises from the last mill levy requests, being fiscally responsible, and passing all audits is to allay any concerns that the district isn't worthy of this request.

Access to Hwy 285 is not a problem for either station, an emergency vehicle rolling with lights and sirens is not the same as a personal vehicle trying to turn out. The reason that Inter-Canyon Fire Station 3 was chosen by the consultants for the new headquarters is for a couple of reasons, from what I understand. 1.) it's not really feasible to expand Elk Creek Fire Station 1, 2.) the majority of incidents occurs between Windy Point and King Soopers and ICFPD Station 3 is closer, and 3.) should we have a major incident in the area (which is more likely a "when" not an "if"), we'll need all of that meadow next to ICFPD for a Type II or Type I Incident Management Team to be Incident Command. You have to set up where it's safest, and where there's the most space.

Yes, ECFPD Station 1 already has housing, but not enough. Nor does it have enough space for offices, admins, or meeting/training rooms. It's a good spot to move the Wildland Module and Fuels Crew, and many of those individuals have EMT certifications (an ambulance is quite possible staying at Station) and they do jump on accident calls when available. Inter-Canyon Station 1 and 3 are also in dire need of major renovation and ICFPD had planned to do just that (they had funding and had received initial bids when the exploration of consolidation starting becoming more likely so they decided to hold off on any decisions so the other districts could rightfully weigh in should they consolidate). Not only that, but what is truly needed to provide a more reliable level of ambulance service for the Hwy 285 Corridor between Morrison and Bailey (where the majority of accidents occur) is more staffed stations, so ICFPD Station 3 right at Windy Point (our worst spot, per Page 104 of the Triton Report ) makes the most sense, and then having ECFPD Station 2 renovated to cover that end of the district (and it was based on response times and station locations). For fires, if you consider where our worst fires have started (Buffalo Creek, Hayman, High Meadow, Lower North Fork Fire), they've all been south and, due to topography, burned toward Hwy 285. Having a staffed station in NFFPD makes sense to jump on those fires fast, and should it be a slow day, they can send ambulances and crews up to assist (snowy days especially). Renovating Station 1 would cost the least because it wouldn't need as much done to it.

Rick, I'm happy to hear you will be volunteering with Crystal Lakes FPD. Larimer County is, per the leader of Rotary Wildfire Ready group I volunteer with as well as my Chief, the number one county in Colorado for communications, planning, and action on mitigating wildfires (They would love if Jeffco could start emulating their programs). I see that CLFPD still has an old .org website though, you might want to mention to them that they really need a .gov domain for security (and to make sure they're in compliance with accessibility guidelines ). They should look into getting a no-cost website on the colorado.gov platform from the Statewide Internet Portal Authority ( sipa.colorado.gov/websites ).

"Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” -King T'Challa, Black Panther

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. ~Winston Churchill

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22 Oct 2023 12:59 #17 by Yossarian
7D-F face a challenge simply because of the state/county huge coordinated property valuation increases. That alone suggests stepping back until we see what tax revenue is available. I say this as a voter in ECFD near Pine Junction who is completely on the fence and looking for objective analysis. I see fair arguments on both sides.

From a home insurance premium standpoint I don't see any reason insurance companies would take a position on this. Underwriters set premiums based on inter alia claims and payouts, so if this initiative succeeds no one will see a benefit for years. For us the potential financial effect of 7D-F will be about 30% of our 2024 expected home insurance premiums, not an insignificant amount. Beyond buttressing defense of wildfires that begin in the North Fork FD (which will not directly or immediately alleviate insurance companies' underwriters' concerns), I'm searching for other benefits for ECFD residents.

From a fiscal perspective I'm trying to understand why ECFD seems to bear a disproportionate share of the costs. ECFD is fiscally sound and runs a 24/7 operation. Help me understand why the consolidation plan appears -- repeat "appears" -- to benefit North Fork and InterCanyon homeowners more than Elk Creek homeowners. Please understand I'm looking for a solid argument for benefits to ECFD homeowners that are value for the cost.

The video of the recent ECFD board meeting bothers me from both sides. First, that it got acrimonious at all with allegations of the usual directed both ways, but second because the audience appears -- repeat "appears" -- to be a coordinated effort by staff, now largely unionized. I have been increasingly leery of public sector union activity, both because of outsized leverage and because attention to cost burden on taxpayers is a secondary issue for unions. Please alleviate my concerns here. When things get to the arm-waving, sign-stealing, finger-pointing, name-calling stage my reaction tends to be to send everyone back to their corners until they all grow up.

I give MMT and this thread high marks for sound information and a helpful discussion. Thanks to those who began it and continue to contribute.

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22 Oct 2023 13:15 #18 by ramage
SC,
The fact the ECFD lives within its means is not a penalty. The fact that our district will incur a 28% increase is. Especially since I can see no discernible benefit for the district.
I do not wish to use posts from "competing" websites, however in that you post on both, I second this question in response to your post on that website:
From a fiscal perspective I'm trying to understand why ECFD seems to bear a disproportionate share of the costs. ECFD is fiscally sound and runs a 24/7 operation. Help me understand why the consolidation plan appears -- repeat "appears" -- to benefit North Fork and InterCanyon homeowners more than Elk Creek homeowners. FerdtheMoonCat from pinecam.com.

A rough analogy from Aesop's Fables, "The Ant and the Grasshopper".

ECFD is the ant , living within its means and saving for a rainy day. ICFD is the grasshopper, spending beyond its means. Now the ICFD (grasshopper) is asking the ECFD(ant) to consolidate in order to rectify its poor financial management. The ant will have to supply the grasshopper via a tax increase on the ant with no contribution from the grasshopper (i.e. cutting its excesses).

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23 Oct 2023 15:27 #19 by homeagain
Seen on a bumper sticker....BE PREPARED TO SELF RESCUE.....seems very appropriate for this discussion. Everyone is experiencing a huge increase in prices,that is the reality. What is also a reality is encroaching development into the urban interface(wildfires WILL be an ongoing threat,as will insurance companies dropping home owner insurance).

DCVR had a FIREWISE program,up and running when I live there (2007-2015)...it was provided by grants
and was no cost to the owner. They came out and mitigated your property (blocked the wood) and viola,u had CORDS of fire wood.

I CAN NOT put my mind around the issue of NOT saying yes to this proposal. (yes, I know everyone is budget bound and money is tight.....your only option,should this not pass, is BE PREPARED TO SELF RESCUE,....because living in the mountains is a choice and it is dicey at it's worst.JMO

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07 Nov 2023 17:04 #20 by ScienceChic
Hi Yossarian, my sincerest apologies for not responding sooner. I agree that I also don't see this impacting insurance companies any. I've learned during this election with questions posed to us that they no longer really factor district ISO ratings into their estimates for rates they charge homeowners - they all have their own metrics that deal mostly with plot-level analysis of your land and risk factors. That said, the big, landscape-scale projects that the Conifer Wildland Division has been doing the past few years does have a larger community-wide impact, as does the Home Assessment Program that we implemented because that goes hand-in-hand with the grants we've won that are paid directly to homeowners for completing mitigation work and will impact our overall wildfire risk.

Regarding cost burden to the districts: the mill levy rate is calculated on an individual's home assessment rate, and while there are more residents in ECFPD, ECFPD also has a disproportionately higher number of calls per year and receives a significantly higher of mutual aid than it gives because we can't handle our call volume at times despite having 2 crews/shift. In 2019, we had 18% of our calls overlap (occur simultaneously); in 2023, that's up over 30% and we can only expect it to climb with the increasingly aging population in unincorporated Jeffco, and growing number of residents, combined with the decline in volunteerism that mirrors nationwide.

As a side note to respond to the similar query by ramage, why are you assuming that ICFPD has been "poorly financially managed?" (This is a talking point of Save Elk Creek Fire too.) Have you looked at their budgets and audits? They are doing fine and well on their way to making up the deficit caused by that Chief who stole from them years ago. They rectified their procedures so that couldn't happen again and the district has been well run since. I know this because I've been attending their Board meetings as well, since 2020, when consolidation first started coming up. I wanted to get to know the people in that district, see whether they'd fixed their issues, and were being run by honorable, ethical people. They are and that's why I have no qualms about my district combining with them and NFFPD. Of note, I am the ONLY non-ICFPD resident who's been regularly attending their Board meetings, aside from the Canyon Courier reporter, so no one else outside of ICFPD has first-hand knowledge of their operations like I do. It's a shame that none of the Save Elk Creek Fire folks felt it was worth their time to do the same fact-finding and vetting that they were just as capable of doing, but that once again affirms that they are basing their arguments in false assumptions and poor information.

In the end, all of the districts benefit, just in slightly different ways. NFFPD and ICFPD territories get fully staffed stations, but we get more personnel and resources available to help with call volume (and those newly staffed stations reside in the areas where our most deadly wildfires have occurred over the past 20 years - those fires burn toward 285 due to the topography and usual weather patterns - having firefighters available to jump on them quickly is to everyone's benefit). If you live in ECFPD and you're the 3rd call in, that will matter to you a whole lot. Especially as when a call does come in, it will be dispatched to the entire Conifer Fire Protection District personnel, not just ECFPD, who then would have to radio dispatch back asking for mutual aid, then another tone out to an adjacent district. Those are precious minutes for a heart attack or stroke victim.

The October Board meeting: some background for you. The individual who made the public comment calling for Chuck's removal was civil until he started yelling at her to sit down, which he had no right to do per Robert's Rules. She got upset and yelled back, and when her 2nd public comment period came, almost all of the volunteers AND career staff stood up behind her to support her, not intimidate the Board member in question. That was not coordinated prior to the meeting but in response to that Board member's rudeness during the beginning of the meeting. That Board member has a history of harassing and bullying behavior, which few have seen publicly, and yet throughout our volunteers and staff have done their best to be professional. Feel free to contact the Chief or any of the other Board members to inquire further.

The district is not "largely unionized". We have over 30 volunteers, and ~15 career staff. There were both volunteers and career staff who stood up to give public comment, and they did not coordinate that ahead of time, those individuals simply felt compelled to speak up. For months, they've been silent in Board meetings while the opposition has been behaving badly. They didn't attack anyone, they simply spoke their piece.

None of the A Safer Conifer committee members have stolen election signs, we've run a clean campaign following the campaign laws, and the complaints made against Director Newby violating the BoD Bylaws are valid. The Save Elk Creek Fire group has not followed the campaign laws, and there are open violations reported against them that the Secretary of State's Office determined had merit and are requiring them to cure which you can view in the Tracer report.

I hope this helps answer your questions, and again my apologies for being so late in replying.

"Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” -King T'Challa, Black Panther

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. ~Winston Churchill

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