Fire-prevention organization hopes state will fund it generously
Appeal Staff Writer
Representatives of the Nevada Fire Safe Council took time out this week from wildfire-awareness activities to present their case for state funding.
The council is among dozens of groups and programs across the state vying for any discretionary funds available once the budget is set. Money from this source is expected to go to just a select few this year because of state budget priorities.
The nonprofit organization is asking the state for about $1.9 million to spend during the next two years, said Andrew List, executive director of the council.
State money the council received for use during the past two years, $1.6 million, was parlayed into about $4.5 million by using it as matching funds for other grants, List said.
“It’s a pretty good return on an investment,” he said.
This summer is being considered especially dangerous because winter and spring have been dry. Fire experts are concerned a low award or no money from the state at all could endanger the program at a time when prevention is crucial.
Depending on whether the organization can find other sources of revenue, education and mitigation programs likely would be “sharply curtailed,” List said.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee were appreciative of the group’s focus on education and abatement of fire dangers and see it as a wise investment, but still couldn’t promise anything, List said.
If the council receive little or no money, “it would be a huge step backward in a state historically one of the most ravaged by wildfire,” said Carson Fire Chief Stacey Giomi. “Community-based initiatives are instrumental in helping homeowners protect their property.”
More than 1.3 million acres burned in Nevada during 2006. Wildland Fire Awareness Week, which ended Friday, encourages Nevadans to learn more about what they can do to better protect their homes and families from the threat.
Giomi and other experts, however, emphasize that prevention is supposed to be ongoing and not an act reserved only for the most crucial times.
There are several local chapters of the council in Carson City alone. There are more than 60 chapters statewide and in the Lake Tahoe Basin with more than 3,000 members.
“If you treat fuels before a wildfire event, the fire would be less costly to fight and be shorter and less intense,” List also said.
For the city to try to pick up some of the responsibilities locally the council now handles likely would be difficult, said City Manager Linda Ritter.
“Our city budget is in such shape that we can’t fill in any gaps,” she said.
Other state funding requests of local interest include the V&T Railroad, Chinese Workers Museum, and a recreation center the city and Western Nevada Community College would share.
The V&T and museum would have a regional economic impact and are projects the city would want to try to present to the state in two more years.
The recreation center, however, is a more localized and meant to serve the city and adjacent areas as well as students at the college.
It’s likely to be modified, reduced, and relocated if the state doesn’t provide the college’s share of the money during this budget cycle, Ritter also said.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.
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