Firefighters say resources stretched thin due to high number of fires

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- It's the first day of spring and wildfires are flaring up across the state, with many brush fires in the Grand Valley.

A few of our wildland firefighters have been sent to Boulder to help fight a wildfire, as fires here locally, continue to flare up.

"It’s going to be a lot bigger than some of the instances that we run here,” explained Michal Cox, a Grand Junction wildland firefighter who is now providing aid in Boulder.

Helping fight large fires across the state provides our firefighters with valuable experience. Firefighters say its important information they can bring home to the Valley.

"Whenever there is a large fire, in our region or anywhere in our country, and they call us and we are available to go, then we go."

It’s been an early start to the fire season here in Colorado. The Grand Junction Fire Department says they usually don’t send their crews to provide aid elsewhere, until mid-May.

Here along the Western Slope, firefighters have responded to an unusually high number of brush fires.

“When we have 15 fires in a day or we have a lot of brush fires, it can quickly stretch our resources pretty thin,” Cox said. “It requires a lot of manpower to put them out."

The GJFD says right now, resources are being stretched thin. They are responding to labor intensive calls that go beyond the open flame.

"This time of the year, it taxes the entire system,” explained Captain Brian Evans, a GJFD Wildland Team Coordinator. “Not only do we obviously do fire, but we also respond to any medical incident within the city."

While crews are sent to Boulder, firefighters are put on overtime to keep adequate staffing levels. Evans says it isn’t as costly as it may seem.

“There is virtually no monetary impact to the city to send our firefighters out,” he said.

That’s because of a contact with the state and federal agencies. Evans says they are reimbursed for their time, manpower and equipment when crews are requested elsewhere.

“Given our budget climate, it’s actually an alternative revenue source for us to bring back to our fire department,” Cox said.

Firefighters say the revenue from this has gone towards purchasing extra equipment in the past.

While GJFD works to keep our community safe, they ask residents to be responsible.

“Be very careful. If you are going to open burn, follow the guidelines,” Evans said. “Don’t take any unnecessary risks.”