By Dave Noblitt
As a recently retired firefighter, it does cause some consternation to speak out in opposition to any funding that targets and supports the fire department. But in the case of ballot issue 2D, I believe that our community needs to understand the broader picture of how this funding will be utilized.
Wildland mitigation of heavy vegetation is a responsible action for residents, or a municipality, to undertake when the WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) of housing or structures is susceptible to a fire threat from those natural occurring fuels. The issue should be; who is responsible for paying for that cost? Should it be the developers who build, or the residents who move into those types of neighborhoods and who own the property that is being mitigated, pay for that protection? Or should it be everybody in the community’s responsibility to pay for the preventative action that primarily benefits those living adjacent to the threat?
As it stands now. The wildland mitigation that is undertaken by the CSFD, under the office of the Fire Marshall, does an amazing job while working with limited resources to provide as much of this reduction in fire exposure through mitigation as is possible with its current funding. Those dollars come primarily through grants, sought out and re-applied for year after year, from companies that realize the importance of this issue or who have direct financial implications from it not being conducted (insurance companies with large holdings, businesses directly in the fire path, etc.) There are no costs or charges made to the landowners on whose property the mitigation actually occurs, somebody else pays for it and that is where I have a concern; here’s why.
As for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, it is continuing to utilize overtime to manage its staffing shortages. Some of that overtime is “mandated” through a number of programs used to retain firefighters to work extra shifts. That can lead to 96 hour work weeks, or more, that can negatively impact both the employees and the citizens that they serve. The city is also growing at an incredible rate, although the fire department is not. The lack of growth of both staffing and fire stations negatively impacts response models that can literally cause the loss of life if something is not done, and soon. These are facts! There will be justifications provided, promises made about what will be coming in the future. But they will not change the facts as they are today.
So the question should be: Does the entire city pay for the cost to protect a small percentage of homeowners or property owners for a cost that should be managed and paid for by those whose property it serves? Or does the city use that money to provide for the protection and coverage of the entire city so that all of its residents see the benefit of those dollars in every neighborhood?