MONTE VISTA — The City Council unanimously approved a disaster declaration due to the 17-acre fire that burned 15 structures in town on April 20. The action during Thursday's regular council meeting opens the door to additional aid in the form of money and services for people impacted by the devastating fire.
“Whereas the City of Monte Vista Police Chief has advised the Monte Vista City Council of a disaster," said Mayor Dale Becker, reading the resolution. "Whereas the cost and magnitude of responding to and recovery from the impact of this event is far more than the City’s available resources.”
Mayor Becker read the entire resolution. It stated the disaster declaration would be for a period of 7 days.
City Manager Gigi Dennis said a similar resolution was passed that morning by the Rio Grande County Board of Commissioners.
Dennis said the resolution was necessary to obtain aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA is a disaster assistance program that helps with grants to pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs for primary residences, and uninsured and underinsured personal property losses caused by a sudden disaster, and other related disaster expenses.
Dennis said she was unsure of the costs associated with the fire. They will be sending information to FEMA to see what help it could provide.
On Wednesday, April 20, a wind-fueled burned 15 structures, with eight of the 15 structures being homes, according to City officials.
According to the City, two homes were unoccupied, leaving six families displaced by the fire.
“We have had a tremendous amount of outreach from our fire department, our police department, contractors from around the Valley," Dennis said. "Many people coming together to help the community. Today, we called together some of our community partners. We had the Nazarene Church offering emergency shelter and the Nazarene Thrift Store offering help, along with the Food Bank, the Department of Human Services, and the Monte Vista Community Fund.”
Dennis said earlier in the day a variety of agencies gathered at the Outcalt Event and Conference Center at SLV Ski Hi Complex to offer resources to people who had lost their homes.
Dennis said the City was being proactive and agreeing to take responsibility for the fire cleanup, as the asbestos abatement would be a challenging aspect of the cleanup and making sure that it was properly disposed of at the landfill.
Dennis said the cleanup would be a time-consuming process and could take months, but she feels it was especially important.
"We are hoping to help families, rebuild and heal,” she said.
At the same meeting, the City put an emergency fire ban in place for Monte Vista until the next City Council meeting on May 19.