Upper Pine receives $655,000 staffing grant

Upper Pine River Fire Protection District was notified by Sen. Mark Udall's office on April 3 that the district received a $650,000 grant to help hire more firefighters.

The grant is from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide minimum staffing levels for rural fire districts.

The grant will supplement two years of firefighter staffing by rehiring four firefighters laid off last year and three additional firefighters.

"This is a huge benefit for the fire district and it will allow us to offset the cost of staffing to help build back the reserve fund," Chief Bruce Evans said in a statement from Upper Pine. "We need to have a year's worth of operating expenses in reserve. Through the selling of unnecessary equipment, refinancing of debt, and the SAFER grant, we will relieve the taxpayers of more than $1 million in obligations while increasing services."

Upper Pine River Fire Protection District covers more than 250 square miles of eastern La Plata County and a small portion of Archuleta County providing fire protection, wildfire mitigation services, emergency medical services and technical rescue response.