Firewise program grows

$29K approved for budget

Keywords: Poll question,

She’s not just blowing smoke.

After adding 16 ambassadors to the Firewise program over the past 20 months, Rebecca Samulski, the Montezuma County chapter coordinator, hopes to add 15 to 20 more by the end of 2013.

Firewise ambassadors represent the program in their neighborhoods by providing education and wildfire planning and helping with mitigation projects.

Samulski gave an update to the Montezuma County Commissioners on Monday, including a request for $29,239 for operating expenses that was approved.

“We’re just scratching the surface of what can be done (in the county),” said Samulski, who also serves as the wildland fire education specialist for the Montezuma County Fire Chiefs, a job she’s had since April of this year.

There are at least 150 areas in the county that are considered high-risk for fires, she said. In particular, she would like to get ambassadors from the western and northwestern parts of the county, including Lewis, Pleasant View, McElmo Canyon and Summit Ridge.

People may not think of grasslands as being a big fire danger, but they are. “More people die in grassfires than any other kind of fire because it’s fast,” Samulski said.

Ambassadors receive two and one-half hours of orientation training, which provides them with resources and brochures. There are bi-monthly meetings where Samulski can introduce ambassadors to wildland fire experts.

The program was started in Montezuma County in 2009. Samulski replaced Karen Dixon as coordinator in January 2011.

Firewise in Montezuma County isn’t just the ambassador program, however. Samulski provides one-on-one education, wildfire planning and mitigation support herself. She conducts workshops, meetings and makes presentations.

She notes that more information can be obtained by calling her at 564-4007 or online at southwestcoloradofires.org/Firewise

The $29,239 budget runs from September through the end of next year. These are federal funds from the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act. Some $15,600 are for Samulski’s salary, with another $5,760 for Program Director Pam Wilson of La Plata County. Other areas include: $2,500 for professional development; $2,189 for supplies and orientation; $2,000 for mileage; and $1,200 for the San Juan Mountains Association, the organization’s fiscal agent.

Samulski plans to attend a national conference in Salt Lake City next year. This is made possible through the professional development funds.

Other county news:

By a 2-0 vote, with Commissioner Larrie Rule not voting, the Montezuma County Commissioners approved a contract for $70,000 for Mr. Concrete and Construction, Inc. to install white tin insulation panels inside the fairgrounds rodeo arena’s west, north and south walls. Windows on those walls will be removed and replaced with skylight panels.

The commissioners had to revote on the item because it was not on the previous week’s agenda. Michael B. Rule is listed as the registered agent for the company, according to the Colorado secretary of state website. Larrie Rule was listed as an organizer of the company when it was founded in 2001.