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Despite Increased Danger, Eagle River Fire Forced To Make Drastic Cuts

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CBS4's Jeff Todd talks with Chief Karl Bauer (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Jeff Todd talks with Chief Karl Bauer (credit: CBS)

AVON, Colo. (CBS4) – This is expected to be one of Colorado’s busiest fire seasons in years, but despite that one high country fire department is making deep cuts.

As the firefighters train, inside Eagle River Fire Protection District’s headquarters, there’s a constant public safety question being asked — which fire stations to keep open?

“We can no longer spend on overtime to keep stations open when we have firefighters who are sick or injured,” Eagle River Fire Chief Karl Bauer said.

With a drop in home values and property taxes, the district lost 25 percent of its budget, and could end up losing even more over the next few years.

Covering 186 square miles with over half a dozen mountain towns and neighborhoods has become difficult with the reduced manpower.

“Our concern is that, what do we have left to respond to incidents elsewhere in the district?” Bauer said.

That’s exactly what happened 10 days ago when a semi fell off Interstate 70 and burst into flames, killing its driver.

“That is the kind of day we are the most worried about and it actually happened,” Bauer said. “All three of our open stations had to respond to that incident. There was nothing else available for anything else that might have occurred in the district.

“So, let’s say we had a wildfire start at the same time, or another traffic accident, or a structure fire. Our concern is that there just aren’t enough resources to go around when we have to close stations like this.”

The chief says only way to recoup the money is through a mill levy increase. Voters in that part of Eagle County turned one down in November. Bauer says he’ll try and see if one can pass again in the fall.

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