County Commissioner Greg Felt declared a state of local disaster emergency at 10:28 a.m. Wednesday.
This means the “occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury or loss of life or property resulting from the ongoing extreme dry conditions, high winds and Decker Fire and the need for emergency action to avert danger or damage, or loss of life.”
Cost impacts of responding to and recovering from the impact of dry conditions, high winds and the Decker fire is far in excess of the county’s available resources.
Several homes have been evacuated and several county roads have been closed to all traffic.
The fire, the dry conditions, threat of future wildfires and impacts on watershed in unincorporated areas of the county constitute a local disaster.
In the declaration he wrote that the director of Chaffee County Office of Emergency Management advised him of a disaster present in unincorporated Chaffee County.
Referring to potential damage resulting from the fire, Felt said it is "the first step in terms of putting the state on notice that we are having problems and may need help.
"It does formalize we have a big issue going and makes it easier to take the next steps if they are needed. It kind of ramps up attention" to the county from the state relating to the fire.
Mark Boley, area field service supervisor with the Colorado state office of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the declaration of an emergency activates emergency operations planning.
It also can potentially change procurement fiscal rules on ordering related to the emergency, in this case the Decker Fire.
"It's not a guarantee by any means but it can poss open up avenues for fiscal assistance from the state."
It's the first step, he said, in the state's ability to offer assistance to the county.
He noted state assistance becomes a complex issue but the county has taken the first step in the process.