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RVFD Waiting for Full Payment for Wildland Fire Response

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RVFD Waiting for Full Payment for Wildland Fire Response

Rio Verde Fire District is one of several smaller districts in the state that are hesitating to send help to battle wildland fires in the west this year. Rio Verde and others are still waiting to be fully paid for personnel and equipment they sent to fi res last year. After fi re season in 2012 Rio Verde Fire District was owed $163,594, and had received $95,651, leaving $67,943 still yet to be paid. Rio Verde sent its last crew out for the season in September last year and did not receive its first payment until March. RVFD Chief Gary Bradbury said the Fire Board has given direction to respond only to requests for help within the State of Arizona. Bradbury said he turned down a request to send a crew to New Mexico last week. Crews are battling two fires in New Mexico, one is more than 12,000 acres north of Albuquerque. Some other districts in the state that are still owed money did send crews to help in New Mexico. Rio Verde Fire District sent personnel to help with 13 fi res during 2012. The district has a much in demand Type 6 brush engine with a crew of three that it sends to most fi res. One fire last year two crews were sent, with one attached to separate equipment. For the Type 6 engine and a three-man crew the district receives $113 per hour. The payments are cost recovery only and so when reimbursement is late the district is essentially running with a debt. “We don’t plan for (the revenue) in budgeting,” Bradbury said. “We can’t plan for it, it’s all reimbursement, so we are carrying a balance forward.” The district is also paid for any personnel who fill in for firefighters on a wildland assignment. State Forestry Division officials told the media last week that there was a total of $16.5 million owed to fire departments from last season, but as of last week all but $1.8 million had been paid. Forest Service officials said a new accounting system was introduced and that is the reason for the delay of several months in getting the reimbursements back to the fi re departments. The balance is expected to be paid within the next 30 days. “We love to participate in the program,” Bradbury said. “But we need to be reimbursed.”

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