Because of budgetary issues, No. 3 was about to be put on the chopping block. With $243,000 of state funds being reduced to $195,000, Vincent and his team needed to make decisions. Many residual concerns have surfaced in the wake of the Little Bear fire, making previous focus points shift.
Upper Canyon area of Ruidoso is an area of grave concern for firefighters. With one entrance/exit strategy, fire safety is paramount. Vincent knows the danger: “If fire comes down the Upper Canyon, the town could go up in smoke in four hours.” Protecting the canyon has been at the top of his list. By designating station No. 3 as a main station, state funds increase to $285,000.
Councilor Jim Stoddard, co-chair of the Village Forestry Working Committee couldn’t agree more. His committee is in the process of determining which recommendations to make to the village council regarding ordinance changes to improve Ruidoso. “We want to have a gold star to show insurance companies,” says Stoddard who’s heard that insurance companies are giving Lincoln County a hard look before continuing to offer underwriting to residents.
Jon Crunk, independent insurance agent and FWC member, states he’s seeing mainline insurance companies not allowing any new business to be generated in Lincoln County. Being top in the nation for wildfire risk, Lincoln County presents a hazard for underwriters to assume. Stoddard states, “We live in a forest and need to have help to create defensibility. We need to change our ordinances to require more thinning on municipal and private lands.” Stoddard hopes new ordinances will encourage property owners to assume responsibility in creating defensible space and becoming firewise. A former educator, Stoddard recognizes the value of continuing to instruct Ruidoso’s citizens of fire information and protection.
Vincent says he knows the position Ruidoso’s finest find themselves and he’s proud of his team of firefighters. With 24 hours a month of mandatory training in areas such as hazardous materials, swift water rescue, high angle rescue, fire safety, and medical concerns, his team is ready to roll at a moment’s notice. Along with Vincent who is fire and EMT trained, he has 19 shift people available. Even Elaine Reynolds, Ruidoso Fire’s office manager is EMT trained.
With the current town Protection Rating of five, changes are being made to lower the rating to four in six months with the goal of being at three in a year. Insurance Surface Offices rarely rates New Mexico communities at a three, but Vincent says he’s confident by making the needed changes the village’s ISO rating will reach three within 12 months.
In last week’s council meeting, Stoddard said he wants to communicate the positive changes to insurance companies who are hesitant in providing coverage to any new County venture. FWC member Crunk says he’s impressed with the village’s efforts and realizes it’s going to take the entire county to make significant changes to influence insurance companies to take a second look at the county.
“We need to stop worrying about cost issues and focus on making our properties firesafe,” says Stoddard. Keeping roof gutters clean of debris, decks and under decks free from pine needles, locating wood piles away from homes are all areas Stoddard says each homeowner should assume responsibility.
“I spend 60-70 hours a week with the singular focus on town safety. I’m happy to work with my team and David Warnack’s forestry service team. Warnack is just as concerned with this town as I am,” says Vincent. Stoddard, Vincent and Warnack are working together to give the Village of Ruidoso a better outcome in future fire seasons.