Seeking answers from Basalt Fire District
As residents of Basalt who care deeply about fire protection and the future of our beautiful town, we have several questions and concerns regarding the Basalt Fire District’s recent decision to spend up to $50,000 in taxpayer dollars to keep Basalt Mountain and part of Red Table Mountain out of the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal.
First, Congress has made clear that the Wilderness Act allows “the use of mechanized equipment, the building of fire roads, fire towers, fire breaks or fire pre-suppression facilities where necessary and other techniques for fire control. In short, anything necessary for the protection of public health or safety is clearly permissible.” H. Rep 95-540. And in fact fires are fought in Wilderness all the time.
Second, it is our understanding that to initiate fire suppression in Wilderness, including the use of helicopters, chainsaws and the like, the Fire District need only place a phone call to the Forest Supervisor in Glenwood, who carries a phone 24/7 during fire season for just that purpose. It is our further understanding that this isn’t much different from what happens now – the Fire District must consult with the U.S. Forest Service, which has ultimate jurisdiction on Basalt and Red Table mountains.
In light of this, and assuming there is no question that the dedicated professionals at the Forest Service would appropriately respond to such a call, can the Basalt Fire District better explain why it believes Wilderness designation would prevent or limit fire protection on Basalt and Red Table mountains? Especially when the Summit and Eagle county fire districts reached a different conclusion?
Finally, the Basalt Fire District has undertaken to expend significant public funds on a federal political debate without first making any effort to ascertain, through public meetings, for example, whether the direction it is taking is consistent with the views of the public it serves. As Basalt residents who have respected and supported the fire department through tax dollars over many years, we would appreciate an opportunity to hear from the Basalt Fire District on these questions and concerns.
Pete McBride, Karin Teague, Chris Seldin, Amy Capron, Jim Paussa and Chris Lane