Hugo Volunteer Fire Department Explores District Option

One of the more debatable issues on this November’s ballot will be the potential formation of a taxing district established to perform fire protection services in the Hugo area.  This will essentially replace the current Non-Profit Corporation of the Hugo Volunteer Fire Department with the Hugo Fire Protection District.   This article is an attempt to present some background information and facts about the Hugo Volunteer Fire Department and its needs, resources, and capabilities.

The Hugo Volunteer Fire Department was incorporated on November 17, 1922 and since the beginning has operated as a non-profit organization with revenue primarily raised through donations and fund-raising events.  The number of accomplishments this organization has achieved in its nearly 100 year history is incredible—and all with no tax base of any kind.  There were municipal contributions from the Town of Hugo over the years, but due to the increasing cost of providing fire protection services the contributions became less significant.

Equipment costs are extraordinary…fire engines easily cost as much as a new combine harvester, and the cost to outfit one firefighter with turnout gear is around $2,000!  This is not to mention the consumables like Alcohol Resistant Firefighting Foam—for all the ethanol-based fuels now in use—which is around $150.00 for a five-gallon bucket (an amount that is easily used for a single passenger vehicle fire).   A similar film-forming foam is needed during oil fires, but it takes a lot more than five gallons!

The local energy producers have been great supporters in the recent years. Many of department’s new apparatus have been donated by or partially paid for by the area’s oil, natural gas, and wind energy companies.  Also, the department’s leaders have been very astute at networking with better funded departments and have been able to receive a lot of used equipment at steep discounts or as a donation. These two factors explain how the department was able to greatly increase its capabilities to the point that Hugo VFD is now classified as a 4/4Y according to the Insurance Service Organization (ISO).  This rating is used by insurance companies to determine risk, and therefore, cost of a policy.  Hugo’s rating is now above the  state and nation-wide average and is equal to that of Salida, Colorado (pop. 5,236)!  This huge rating improvement (up from a 7B), has saved every business and homeowner on insurance costs.  In fact, the realized savings is more—in almost every case—than the 3.5 mil assessment would be if a Fire Protection District is formed.  The increased capabilities have been seen in three recent structure fires during which adjacent structures were completely protected and in two of the three fires the primary structure was deemed restorable!

If an insurance policy exists for the property, the insurance company will usually pay department’s bill. Unfortunately, many fire and crash responses go without any kind of reimbursement.  The reasons are plentiful: some people think their taxes are paying for the department already; some just cannot afford it; some just ignore it; and some have even challenged the department to take the matter to court.  Sadly, this lack of income is leaving the fire department on a precipice.

In 2017, operating expenditures were around $60,000.00 for the fire department!  That is just operating costs; no capital budget can exist when revenue is unknown and not forecastable.  A Fire Protection District with a tax assessed valuation can at least allow the department to manage its assets and form a capital budget.  Part of achieving a good ISO rating is ensuring equipment is inspected by a certified pump/engine mechanics and all personal gear is within certifiable service dates.  These inspections, obviously, take time and money and are in danger of lapsing if the department cannot afford to schedule them.  In which case, the ISO rating will most likely regress and the insurance rates will go back up.  So, the land/homeowner will be eventually paying the same amount (or more) but without the added benefit of a capable, well-equipped fire department to respond to his/her emergency.

How much will it cost?  Assessed value x .0035.  Most homeowners will pay less than $50/year!  To calculate your cost, go to: http://assessor.lincolncountyco.us/assessor/taxweb/search.jsp and search for your property.  Add up the assessed values and multiply them by .0035, it really is that easy.

Public meetings will be held on September 26th & October 17th @ 6:00pm (Hugo Community Center) to ask questions and receive answers.  In the meantime, please contact the Hugo Volunteer Fire Department through their website or a Private Message through Facebook with any questions you may have.

For eligible citizens wishing to become members of the potential fire board, the deadline is September 4th.  Please contact Jess Solze at jess.solze@hugofire.org for a nomination form.


ATTENTION ALL LINCOLN COUNTY RESIDENTS

 Lincoln County is under a Stage 2 Fire Ban.

 Lincoln County Fire districts are now on LEVEL 2 BURN RESTRICTION. Meaning, you may burn household trash in an approved container that is 10 feet from any other flammable material. ANY other burns must be approved by the Sheriff and the Fire Chief. This is considered temporary right now and may change if weather patterns don't continue giving moisture.

Any questions please call your local fire chief or the Sheriff.

To read the full Ordinance - http://www.lincolncountyco.us/

Hugo Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance provides fire, rescue, and emergency medical treatment and transport services to the citizens of Hugo, Colorado and the surrounding area.

Due to the high "fuel loading" of dry flora and tumbleweeds, please be careful with open flames and while performing any controlled burning activities.  The Hugo VFD does advise those conducting a controlled burn to contact the Lincoln County Sheriff dispatch and advise them of such activities.
 
The Hugo VFD has "Supporter" caps for sale in Dark Blue and Camo.  Contact any member or the department via e-mail through the website if you would like to purchase a cap. 

The Hugo VFD and the town of Hugo completed and ISO inspection in August 2016. This inspection indicates the fire depts. capabilities for fighting strucure fires. We are proud to announce that we lowered our rating to a 4/4Y. This rating puts us in the top 25% of fire departments in the United States. We strongly recommend that you contact your local insurance agency to see if this will help to lower your insurance premiums