Fire along river road, Moab
River Road Fire Credit: [file photo]

Much of Grand County outside of Moab, Thompson Springs, and Castle Valley currently has no official fire protection services, but that will change if a plan to expand the Moab Valley and Castle Valley fire protection services is successful.

Of course, fire personnel respond to areas outside of the Moab Valley Fire Protection District and the Castle Valley Fire District, but the current informal system can be inefficient, wasting both taxpayer money and precious time when responding to a fire.

“Right now, everybody that’s living outside of these fire protection districts is basically getting fire protection for free,” said Chris Baird at the Grand County Commission meeting on May 2. “We’re just looking to kind of square things up across the whole county to make sure that we’ve got fire protection coverage everywhere.”

Fire personnel reported that at that moment, a Moab Valley fire crew was responding to a car on fire along I-70—outside of the current districts.

Baird, the Grand County strategic development director, said that the organizations have been discussing plans to annex uncovered areas of the county into the existing districts for several months. The annexation would formalize fire protection services to ensure that all residents have access to adequate fire protection, as well as ensure proper funding—the expanded districts will have the ability to levy a tax.

The Castle Valley Fire District declined to join the MVFPD, instead asking to continue as its own entity and to annex Castleton.

“It’s a little technical, and it’s going to be fairly involved,” said Baird, who asked for commissioners to participate in the process of hammering out the details of the agreement.

“I really want to get some of the decision makers in the process so that we don’t run the risk of coming up with something that y’all don’t want to approve,” said Baird.

Baird said that the Moab Valley Fire Protection District has requested a three-year transition plan and asked for increased financial support from the county over that period.

“So, the hope is that in the long term, those taxing entities can cover expenses,” Commissioner Kevin Walker summarized, “but during the transition, there’s a discussion of having the county to kick in some extras to cover everything.”

“To help them in that transition financially, and to set them up to where they can succeed makes a lot of sense in my mind,” said Commissioner Bill Winfield.

Commissioners Winfield, Walker and Trish Hedin agreed to serve on a committee to work on the annexation process and help absorb the Thompson Springs Special Service Fire District.

The annexation process is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 in order to meet the tax commission deadline and set the districts up to levy taxes on the newly incorporated regions. Once the annexation is complete, all residents of Grand County will have access to the same level of fire protection, regardless of where they live.