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Cities may have to pay firefighting costs

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HIGHLAND — Costly lessons are rising from the ashes of a mountainside blaze that has burned 900 acres in Alpine and raged into nearby American Fork Canyon.

Cities served by the Lone Peak Public Safety District now face paying the bill for firefighters, emergency medical crews and water drops from the air. After two weeks of battle and some rainfall, the fire continues to smolder.

Jan Bunce, chairwoman of the safety district for Alpine, Highland and Cedar Hills, said there are no policies in place to guide the district when faced with such costs.

Bunce said the district needs to establish "reasonable and fair" guidelines that clearly state what the district will be financially responsible for if another fire sweeps through the area.

District Director Donald "Kip" Botkin said the district should use contingency funds to pick up the tab for bills that aren't passed through the federal government and Forest Service.

Botkin and Alpine Fire Chief Craig Carlisle also urged the board to pay firefighters, many of whom took time away from their regular jobs.

The rate for Forest Service personnel is $15 an hour for certified firefighters and $12 an hour for noncertified firefighters. However, the district's regular wage rate is $6 to $8 an hour.

Board members voted to pay the higher rate, which will cost the district $5,835 instead of $2,500.