With fire season upon us, the state's fire fund is empty, Sheriff Terry Maketa told commissioners Thursday.
He said the state fire fund is drained, including the county's contribution to that fund. The state fund stood at $1 million at the start of the year.
"Each participating county pays into this fund," Maketa says in an e-mail today. "I believe El Paso County's portion was 102k for 2011. The delegation of authority is a normal process and the lack of funding in the emergency fire fund does not change the process but having said that we will move quicker to delegate that fire authority to the state quicker than in the past. Since El Paso county is contiguous to southern counties declared extreme drought we may be eligible for additional Federal assistance that under normal circumstances we would not be eligible for. So in essence we will delegate authority to access Federal funding especially since the State funding has been exhausted."
The funds were exhausted in March.
Maketa explained that fire districts are the first responders on fires in the county. If a fire grows beyond their control, they contact the county's wildland firefighting team, which steps in.
If a fire explodes beyond those resources, the county calls the state for help.
Under the current situation, Maketa says the county is apt to delegate to the state "quickly" due to the county's lack of funds, and because the state can access disaster funds.
As fire bans continue through the weekend, Maketa promised his department will be trolling the county for illegal fires and fireworks.
"Thirty days out it doesn't look to change," Maketa said, referring to the dry hot weather. "I've heard it's raining in parts of the county but it's not enough."
Meantime, Northern Command issued this release about the fires in New Mexico:
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — Four Department of Defense C-130 aircraft equipped with U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems and under the command and control of U.S. Northern Command, are continuing to support firefighting efforts in New Mexico.
On Tuesday two C-130s and about 25 Air Force Reservists from the 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson AFB, Colo., arrived here to replace the outgoing two C-130s from the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard. The Air Force Reserve crews and planes join two C-130s from the North Carolina Air National Guard that are currently deployed here, to assist the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) control fires in New Mexico.
As of the end of MAFFS operations Wednesday, June 29, DoD aircraft have completed the following totals in support of the southwest.
— 134 air drops
— App. 308,989 gallons of retardant