AVON, Colo. (CBS4) – What a difference a day makes. Last Tuesday, before the polls closed, firefighters at one high country department were concerned for their jobs. Now they’ve got new life.
CBS4 has been reporting on the issues at the Eagle River Fire Protection District after two fire stations closed nearly every day because of budget cuts.
“Our biggest concern was ensuring that we can continue fire engines rolling to the emergency,” Eagle River Fire Protection District Chief Karl Bauer said.
That concern was very real this year when firefighters had to respond to some major events. In mid-May there was a semi truck that flipped off the interstate, killing the driver in a fiery wreck. A few weeks later a condo complex was destroyed by flames. Each instance pulled every available firefighter from around the district because some stations were closed since it couldn’t afford to pay overtime for adequate staffing.
“When an emergency happens, we will be there, and they weren’t appreciating that, that might not be the case,” ERFPD Board of Directors Chair Jennifer Cartmell-Hays said.
This Election Day voters narrowly approved a $1.7 million mill levy increase after voting it down a year ago. The impact is immediate.
“We have no stations closures and we will not have station closures from today going forward,” Bauer said. “(Firefighters) want to know they can hop on the engine, go to the incident and not have to worry about the station being closed for a day. Their morale is through the roof.”
Not only will stations stay open, but six new firefighters will be hired. There will also be some very necessary equipment upgrades, highlighted by the year the state has had.
“It has become very clear to us as we look at our current inventory that we don’t have adequate wildland fire response equipment,” Cartmell-Hays said.
It was the largest amount requested by a fire district in the state. Similar tax increases were approved in Summit County and the Basalt area, but voted down in Gypsum.