Bighorn National Forest Supervisor Bill Bass and Powder River District Ranger Mark Booth spoke with the Johnson County Commissioners at their last meeting to urge them to access the Fire Suppression Fund through the State of Wyoming for help in paying for the suppression of last summer's Gilead Fire.
The USFS and BHNF have entered into Cost Share Negotiations with local and state entities to help in the costs of fire suppression. The Johnson County Fire Board has offered $250,000 and the state has offered $200,000 toward the more than $3.3 million costs on the Gilead Fire alone.
The BHNF only wants reimbursed for costs on lands outside of their jurisdiction, and traditionally negotiations have been resolved by percentage of acres burned. If that formula is used on the Gilead Fire, the USFS would be responsible for 75% of costs, Johnson County at 18% and the state at 7%. By dollar amount, it would require the county pay $600,000 and state to pay $233,000 according to Bass.
Johnson County, in August of 2011, relinquished their Fire Warden position and gave all decision-making to each individual Fire District in the county. The State Forestry Division would have to deal directly with each district, in the commissioner's opinion.
The Johnson County Fire Board made the $250,000 offer to the BHNF out of their own fire suppression account with no help from the state. The problem in asking for state help is the amount of fires and the large amount of money spent on fire suppression in the state last summer, so no one is sure there will be any funds left in the account to help.
Commission Chair Delbert Eitel spoke on the matter.
Both Fire Districts suggested continuing negotiations.
The Johnson County Fire District Board will have their next meeting February 12, but hope to discuss the matter in a special meeting beforehand if possible.