12/18/2014

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Local crews look to recoup costs after fighting costly wildfires

Local crews look to recoup costs after fighting costly wildfires

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Local fire crews fought some powerful wildfires this summer. The Colockum Tarps Fire in Kittitas and Chelan Counties was the largest in the state.

Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue teams racked up hundreds of hours of overtime tackling it. Action News learned the agency is looking for ways to recoup some of that money.

The Mile Marker 28 Fire, the Colockum Tarps Fire and most recently the Dead Canyon Fire strained resources and forced firefighters to work overtime.

Cory Wabaunsee's dad is a Wildland firefighter in the Lower Valley. Most of them are volunteers. 

"They're like underpaid heroes, like they go out and they risk their lives at these fires," Wabaunsee said.

Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue crews had the biggest in the state right in their backyard. They worked 740 hours of overtime fighting the Colockum Tarps Fire.

Now, it's time to try to make those thousands of dollars. The department is considering a proposal that was denied in the past. It would charge CWU students for 9-1-1 calls involving drugs and alcohol whether or not someone is taken to a hospital.

Yakima firefighters did not work the Colockum Tarps Fire or any other brushfire.
    
"It's hard for us to commit personnel outside the county for a long period of time because quite frankly, they're needed here in the city," said Yakima Fire Department Captain Tom Schneider.

Yakima said the decision to keep crews at home also saves the department money.

"The level of protection that you provide to your community really does, I mean, it establishes how safe your community is," Schneider said.

Most of the Yakima Fire Department's overtime is spent on manpower to cover vacation and sick time.   

Volunteers make up the West Valley Fire Department and Yakima County Fire District 5.

State resources come into play for the largest brush fires.

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