The Pueblo Chieftan

PW enters fire pact with Canon

The Pueblo West Fire Department will sign a mutual aid agreement with Canon City’s fire department after Metro District Board of Directors approved doing so at last week’s meeting.

Fire Chief Brian Caserta told members of the board that the agreement does not commit Pueblo West to anything specific, but is a way of being a good neighbor and preparing for a potentially catastrophic event.

“If they call for mutual aid and I don’t have the resources (at that time), then I just say I can’t accommodate it and there’s no harm done,” Caserta said. “It’s cooperative efforts among agencies so if we have something bad happen, we hope someone will come help us.”

Board members asked Caserta several questions about mutual aid agreements, including some about procedures and costs if a large fire (such as the Royal Gorge fire) is taken over by the federal government.

Caserta said for the first 12-24 hours, the local fire department is “on its own,” but when the chain of command becomes a federal matter, the department would begin getting reimbursed.

“I don’t really see the harm in this (agreement),” said Director Mike French. “If we don’t have the resources to respond, we’re not going to respond whether we have this agreement or not.”

Director Bill Vickers disagreed with the idea, saying he didn’t see the benefit of formally extending local resources.

“Tax revenue is garnered in this district, and that’s where the money should be spent,” he said. “It boils down to where taxes are made and spent.”

Caserta reassured Vickers that Pueblo West is most important, and said it is good to have mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities so Pueblo West “doesn’t become an island” in case of emergency. He said “handshake agreements” from years past have been replaced by official paperwork such as the requested mutual aid agreement.

“If my neighbor needs help, I’ll do what I can. I still have the district in my best interest,” Caserta said.

Director Jerry Martin said he believes mutual aid agreements to be a “demonstration of government bodies working together to use resources that might otherwise be idle.

“I don’t see any particular harm in it, because it’s still up to you whether you (do anything when asked).”

After much discussion, directors approved the agreement 4-1.

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