PENROSE, Colo. (CBS4) — The Penrose Fire Department announced on Thursday that it will suspend its Emergency Medical Service (EMS) program less than a month from now.
“We unfortunately don’t have the staff to provide this service,” the all-volunteer department stated in social media messages. “With the decline in staffing and recent unexpected losses, the number of personnel are no longer adequate to continue service to the community.”
“The community,” the department’s messaging continued, “cannot assume that an ambulance will be available for a call to service in the Penrose residential and surrounding areas. It is with sincere regret that we have had to come to this decision.”
Penrose EMS has been a subset of the Penrose Fire Department since 1974. The fire department is a member of the Florence Fire Protection District, itself a wholly volunteer-run organization made up of departments that serve the towns of Coal Creek, Rockvale, and Williamsburg in addition to the town of Penrose and the City of Florence, all located to the east of Cañon City.
Florence Fire Protection District does not have an ambulance service of its own and, according to a spokesperson at a Penrose fire station who did not want to be identified. Florence Fire was unwilling to take over Penrose’s ambulance services, the spokesperson said.
That spokesperson told CBS4 the EMS staff at Penrose Fire had been reduced down to two people since March 31. Of those two remaining staffers, one is scheduled to retire July 4th. The other already has a full-time job in addition to volunteering at night for Penrose EMS, the spokesperson said.
Penrose Fire’s assistant chief, Greg Gatzke, died unexpectedly March 31 in a work-related accident while at his professional firefighting job with Fort Carson Fire and Emergency Services. Gatzke was a professional emergency vehicle technician for that department.
Gatzke was also a third member of the Penrose EMS staff, according to the department spokesperson.
In Thursday’s social media posts, Penrose Fire stated it was working to restore EMS service to the community in the future. The department even called for volunteers to step forward who have EMT certification which would allow the department to “consider options of keeping the doors open.”
The department spokesperson said that the solution might come in the form of a private EMS provider with paid staff. Putting that together takes time and planning, however, and has to go before the voters.
“We have been working on it since the beginning of the year,” the spokesperson said.