GREEN RIVER — The Green River City Council unanimously approved a contract between the city and the county Tuesday night for the Green River Fire Department (GRFD) to provide fire services for the county with financial compensation.
In March, the Sweetwater County Commission voted 4-1 to dissolve the Sweetwater County Fire Department and to instead move to working with GRFD and Sweetwater County Fire District #1 through contracts to provide the services in unincorporated areas of the county. This decision came following a study that was aimed at finding inefficiencies in the county fire department.
Since then, Sweetwater County Code Enforcement Specialist and Green River City Councilman Jim Zimmerman has been appointed as the county fire warden.
“The GRFD will continue the same coverage as they have always done and continue covering the west of the county as well as to assist District, BLM, Forest Service and other areas when called upon,” GRFD Co-Chief Bill Robinson said.
He added that this contract just gives the city financial compensation for providing the services they’ve already been providing.
According to the agreement, the county is estimated to pay the city between $200,000 and $300,000 for services. The contract will be in effect through December 31, 2022. From there, Robinson said they will likely move into an 18-month contract, and from then on it will be on an annual basis.
Robinson said he has heard two concerns, which he addressed during the Council meeting. The first concern was asking what will happen if the county needs coverage at the same time there is a call in the city. According to Robinson, nothing will change in services as the department have already been providing services to both the county and the city.
He said they don’t send all their firefighters out at once, and they have equipment that stays in town, and equipment ready to go out into the county. Therefore, coverage will continue as it has been for the past several years.
The other point of concern was about some of the wording in the contract, which states the chiefs can turn down a response. Robinson said they will most likely not do this, but that with a volunteer fire department they sometimes have less personnel to work with. Robinson and Co-Chief Larry Erdmann are the only two employees who are not volunteer.
He added that calls in more populated areas will get the priority when they are sending firefighters out.
“We wouldn’t likely turn one down. Keep in mind, we’re volunteers. All of our department but Larry [Erdmann] and I are volunteers so sometimes we have more, sometimes we have less. More populated areas are going to be our main area of concern. Of course it comes to safety and life first and if it’s something unsafe, we’re not going to send our guys into it.”
Robinson said he and Co-Chief Erdmann, as well as the other chiefs in the county, the County Commissioners, and Zimmerman have all met and will continue to meet throughout the wildland fire season to discuss the pros and cons of the new agreement. He said they will work out the kinks as they arise.