Beaver Creek, Vail discuss sharing fire services
The Beaver Creek Metropolitan District and Vail recently met about sharing fire services.
“We only had one discussion about possibly sharing fire services, but we’re only exploring our options right now,” said John Gulick, chief of the Vail Fire Department. “It’s very preliminary; we’re looking at the pros and cons for a merger of that magnitude.”
The Beaver Creek Metro District contacted Vail in search of options to share fire services and reduce costs for it, but it’s one of the many options the district is looking at, said Larry Grafel, director of the Beaver Creek Metro District.
“(The Vail Fire Department) may or may not be a part of the district,” Grafel said. “It’s just too early to put any legs on this thing.”
The metro district has a contract with the Eagle River Fire Protection District to provide fire services in the area. Most of its services are contracted as a cost-effective way to control types of services, Grafel said. The district also has a franchise agreement for water and sanitation, snow removal and street sweeping services.
But the Eagle River Fire Protection District is the “outlaw,” Grafel said, because it’s not part of the metro district.
While combining fire services might be one option, Grafel said it might not come back to them because of other issues the Vail Fire Department has on its plate, such as the building of the new West Vail fire station.
“Sharing fire services with Vail is just one of the many options that we’re looking at,” he said. “They may come back to us about it, and they may not.”
But for the Vail Fire Department, Gulick said, it’s exciting times for them.
“The possibilities are endless,” Gulick said. “It might not make sense (to share fire services) but we have to look and see.”
The fire districts, as well as the ambulance and emergency services, are exploring options to make those services more effective and consistent, he said.
There are five fire departments in the county, including Basalt, he said. The county also has two ambulance districts.
“We’re looking at how we can make things more efficient,” he said. “We’re exploring possibilities or options to do things differently.”
In other municipalities along the Front Range, fire and emergency districts have merged. The Littleton Fire Department and the Cunningham Fire Protection District in Arapahoe County combined fire and ambulance services, along with the South Metro Fire Protection District. Some services in Eagle County haven’t officially merged but have been collaborating on services to make sure certain equipment used remains consistent, such as the Regional Hazardous Materials Association of Eagle County. There, five public-safety entities in Eagle County joined forces to put together the new hazardous materials crew as a way to integrate equipment and joint response to hazardous materials.
“Consolidating for consistencies’ sake is another thing we’re looking at to get fire and emergency management services to be put in that same bucket,” Gulick said.
However, the Eagle County Ambulance District wants to remain separate from the merger discussion, said Lyn Morgan, director of the Eagle County Ambulance District.
“This doesn’t really affect us at all,” Morgan said. “The idea was broached but it doesn’t pertain to us. We’re not involved in it.”
On the other hand, sharing those fire services might not make sense, Gulick said.
“It may not make sense to converge with Beaver Creek, because we’re 14 miles away,” he said. “And right now, we’re faced with some pretty hard times economically everywhere. There’s a lot of fear and worry.
“People are so afraid of our job and of change that they avoid it, fight it; they’re against it. Sometimes they can’t open their eyes to possibilities (that it could benefit it).”
The Vail Fire Department is part of the town’s municipal system, as well as the police department.
“An entire fire district might be better than the municipal department,” Gulick said. “What’s going to benefit the communities and one valley? It’s just some of the what-ifs.
“Either way, it’s not going to happen tomorrow.”
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.