Dillon Dam road closure will delay emergency responses | VailDaily.com

Dillon Dam road closure will delay emergency responses

Ashley Dickson
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Eric Drummond/Summit DailyA Summit County Ambulance squeezes through the Dam Road barriers on the west side of the dam Thursday during testing of emergency services' ability to navigate the Dam Road.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” County emergency responders timed how long it would take to cross the Dillon Dam Road in an ambulance on Thursday, navigating the staggered barriers put in place by Denver Water after the road was closed on Tuesday.

While Denver Water said they would keep the road open for emergency vehicles, Thursday’s experiment showed ambulance drivers slowing to a crawl when it came time to traverse the barriers, adding almost five minutes to a route frequently used when responding to cross-county emergencies.

“Historically we have always used the Dam Road when commuting from Frisco to Dillon or vis-versa,” Summit County ambulance director Sean Caffrey said. “Now we are going to have to adapt and overcome, but at this point it is a pretty big hassle.”

Local fire and emergency agency say they still have yet to receive any information from Denver Water regarding the new protocol on the Dam Road, prompting them to search out their own answer.

“We didn’t really know what to do when we first saw the barricades and luckily the caretaker at the reservoir was able to let us know the plan of action should we need to get through,” Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue public information officer Brandon Williams said.

If an ambulance does need to navigate the barriers, they are required to notify one of three guards who have the authority to unlock the gates at the entrance of the dam, Williams said.

Once a guard arrives to unlock the gate, emergency responders will have to wait for the gate to be re-locked behind them before getting escorted across the dam and then let out at the second gate on the opposite end of the road.

“We wanted to test to see how long the delay would be,” Williams said. “After watching them unlock just one gate, it’s apparent the process is way to slow. And we still can’t get a fire truck through there if we had to.”

According to Brian Good, Denver Water’s director of operations and maintenance, the short-term plan should be replaced with a more permanent solution by the end of August.

“Denver Water says they are going to make improvements in the future, but what about right now?” Summit County Sheriff John Minor said. “Police don’t have a key to the gate, neither do firefighters and ambulance crews. The whole thing is a mess.”

While emergency crews do have access to Interstate 70 and Swan Mountain Road, Caffrey says the inconvenience of both routes puts added pressures on response times.

“Swan Mountain is a steep and winding road prone to a lot of trucks and slow vehicles,” Caffrey said. “For a patient in back of the ambulance the ride can be miserable on Swan Mountain, and I-70 isn’t much better because it always adds time.”

Officials at Denver Water say they are planning to put “pop-up barriers” on either end of the dam so that fire and ambulance personnel will still have access to the byway in the future. It has not yet been decided which agency will be responsible for operating these future barriers as “conversations with the county as still ongoing,” Denver Water commissioner Penfield Tate said earlier in the week.

Local emergency responders are eager to be a part of these “conversations” as they wait to receive any further instructions from Denver Water.

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