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Udall Bill Would Aid Rural Boulder County Fire District

Photo by Kirk Siegler
Sugar Loaf Mountain as seen in the distance after the Four Mile Canyon fire.

The US House has given unanimous approval to a bill by Colorado Senator Mark Udall that would allow a land swap between the US Forest Service and a rural Boulder County fire district to enhance local wildfire fire mitigation and firefighter training efforts.

To consider the impacts of the bill, imagine a fire station in the wildfire-prone forests above Boulder without a consistent supply of water. Sugar Loaf Fire District Chief Chris Rice doesn’t have to imagine.

"Right now two of our fire stations don’t have running water because we’re on the land with a special use permit but we can’t dig wells for those fire stations," Rice tells KUNC. "It’s sort of funny for a fire station not to have water."

If the fire district can own the land beneath two of its three stations - which Senator Udall’s bill allows – Rice says its infrastructure will be vastly improved, not to mention the old composting toilets can be replaced. Fire managers also say they can continue to upgrade and enhance firefighter training exercises and continue to educate homeowners living within fire-prone forests.  

The Sugar Loaf Fire District is one of the more high profile volunteer fire departments in the West.  Much of its boundaries are in the so-called wildland urban interface; the buffer between mountain neighborhoods and National Forest lands, and it was one of the first responders during last year’s Four Mile Canyon wildfire.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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