Jackson Hole Fire/EMS seeks funding for wildland fire mitigation position

JACKSON, Wyo. — During a recent Town and County joint information meeting, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen outlined a new wildland fire mitigation position he hopes the Council and Board will consider including in the FY22 budget.

The job description includes updating the community hazard mitigation plan, applying for federal grants, homeowner and homeowner association outreach, expanding the ambassador program, mapping available water supply, conducting homeowner risk overviews in the spring and fall, coordinating with partners and responding to wildland fires with the team.

Chief Hansen discussed how Fire/EMS is missing out on crucial federal grant funding for wildfire mitigation efforts and the necessity of this proposed position.

He said, “We are currently not bringing in funding through grants. In fact, the grants we have applied for haven’t been successful because we’ve got a few boxes we haven’t been able to check off.”

According to Chief Hansen, “Lincoln County is bringing in revenue roughly double the cost of the program.”

He said, “A $100,000 investment could bring in $200,000 worth of mitigation funding per year.”

“I don’t want to promise that until I’m able to prove it, but that is consistent with what we’ve seen looking in places like Swan Valley and other communities in Colorado and Montana,” said Chief Hansen.

Currently, the Fire Department has an ambassador program that provides volunteers with information and training. The ambassadors are tasked with reaching out to their neighbors about wildland fire mitigation tools.

Chief Hansen said the ambassador program is “successful when we can put time into it,” and that this new position would allow the program to expand.

“The initial startup cost of this new position would total about $102,500,” said Chief Hansen.

Teton Conservation District is poised to provide about $45,000 to the startup costs of the position. The Conservation District’s Board approved the funding for their fiscal year 2020 budget. “Our Board fully intends to execute that and make that available,” said Teton Conservation District Executive Director, Tom Segerstrom. Their budget will be reviewed on June 16.

Currently, Teton Conservation District bears a large burden of wildland fire mitigation outreach. Robb Sgroi, Land Resources Specialist at Teton Conservation District said he spends about 40% of his time working on wildland fire mitigation.

Sgroi conducts wildfire risk overviews for landowners, presenting them with “prescriptions” or voluntary suggestions to mitigate the spread of wildfires. Prescriptions include suggestions for vegetation management, fuel reduction, and tree removal. Sgroi explained that at property visits he looks at the 100 to 200-foot radius from the structure’s main walls.

“Our three main goals are to improve conditions for firefighters, improve safety for landowners and reduce the structure ignition potential,” said Sgroi.

Sgroi also explained that among the 14,800 privately owned individual parcels in Teton County, 5,700 parcels are of “fairly high priority.”

Since 2013 Teton Conservation District has conducted 333 risk overviews to landowners.

“Demand for wildfire risk overviews have increased over the years, especially after the Roosevelt Fire in Sublette County,” said Sgroi. Adding, “A lot of homeowners from California and Colorado have experience and a high degree of awareness about the issues and risk of wildfire.”

“We will save far more homes through education and mitigation efforts than we will through emergency response,” said Chief Hansen. “Rather than asking for more and more and more fire apparatus and fire trucks, I want to instead invest more in the prevention efforts, starting with education for homeowners who live in those interwoven areas of the forest.”

Elected officials agreed to move the request forward in the budget process. No members of the council or board were against the addition of the position.

About The Author

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.

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