- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - Idaho says it will give partial payment to people who were hired by rural volunteer fire departments to help battle last summer’s fire near Kamiah.

The state Department of Lands will pay people hired last-minute to help firefighters on Aug. 10-17, when traditional firefighting resources were used up and blazes were still raging, reported The Lewiston Tribune (https://bit.ly/1UJhkUW ).

The rural fire chiefs approached the state during the fires to ask if their hires could be compensated, explained State Forester David Groeschl.

The state usually only pays contractors it signs agreements with before the start of fire season. Those contractors have their equipment inspected and are given some firefighting training.

But the department made an exception in this case. Groeschl said he decided to pay people who were doing the most important work, like using heavy equipment to dig fire lines or hauling water in trucks during the most critical time.

Those workers will get 65 percent of the standard rates for such work, he said.

An Aug. 10 lightning storm started the fires, which eventually destroyed about 50 homes. The incident command teams weren’t fully in command of firefighting efforts until Aug. 17, a whole week later, said Groeschl.

According to the forester, people who stayed after August 17 did so at their own discretion and will not be paid for that work.

But he said Pat Henderson of Southwick is an exception. The logger and rancher documented that he worked under team supervision Aug. 15-22, and he’ll be paid for those dates at the reduced rate, said Groeschl.

“He was directed by the team to do that, so we felt OK, we have confirmation from the team he was directed to do work in coordination with the team,” he explained. “None of the other resources was directed by the team or Idaho Department of Lands.”

Henderson led a push for those hired during the fires to be compensated, and he says he’s not satisfied. Henderson said he has to pay 100 percent of his costs associated with firefighting and the state didn’t pay him for his lowboy trailer or his truck.

“I ain’t happy with 65 percent. Farm Bureau Insurance, Les Schwab and Coleman Oil, they all want 100 percent,” said Henderson. “When I hire people I have to pay 100 percent; they ain’t happy with 65 percent and the state is no different.”


Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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