Regional briefs

Black Forest fire department hires PR

COLORADO SPRINGS – The Black Forest Fire-Rescue District has hired a public relations firm to deal with a spat with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office over complaints the fire department was slow to respond to a deadly wildfire.

Webb Strategic Communications has been paid nearly $6,000 so far, records obtained by KRDO-TV showed Wednesday.

The wildfire in June killed two people and destroyed 486 houses.

The board has launched an independent investigation into a dispute with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa about the response to the Black Forest Fire.

Fire Chief Bob Harvey and the board have refused to comment since the probe began.

Maketa said the fire chief made some bad calls after the Black Forest wildfire was reported, refusing to call for outside help for two hours.

He also accused Harvey of impeding his investigation into the cause of the blaze, allegations which Harvey has denied.

The fire department’s public relations effort has upset some taxpayers, who object to the expense.

Fires and floods unite lawmakers

DENVER – The Senate Local Government Committee voted 7-0 Tuesday in favor of a bill to make it easier for counties to pay for road and bridge repairs after a disaster.

Even in an election year marked by partisan sniping, the disaster bills seem to have broad support.

Colorado had at least four wildfires last summer, including the most destructive in history: the Black Forest Fire in El Paso County.

Then, in mid-September, floods in northern and eastern Colorado killed nine people and damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes.

State lawmakers from both parties have said all year disaster response is a top priority.

They’re holding to their word in the early days in the lawmaking session, putting several proposals on a fast track to the governor’s desk.

Group threatens to sue over water

ALBUQUERQUE – An environmental group is threatening to sue Colorado, saying its management of water in the San Luis Valley is putting New Mexico’s stretch of the Rio Grande at risk.

WildEarth Guardians contends flood irrigation soaks up most of the water that makes its way into the Rio Grande from snowpack in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

The group says that leaves only a small amount for downstream users and endangered species such as the Rio Grande silvery minnow and the Southwestern willow flycatcher.

The group is accusing Colorado of violating the Endangered Species Act.

The Associated Press