Fire prompts petition drive for fire station
In fact, they’re preparing to hold elected officials’ feet to the fire for delaying the two-decades-old question of whether or not a third fire station should be built in West Vail.
“I felt terror in my heart,” says Vi Brown, a Vail resident since 1964, of what went through her mind as she departed West Vail early Monday morning only to see “smoke up on the hill.”
She “raced” back home and told her husband, Byron, to call the fire department.
“It just scared me,” she says. “It’s like your worst nightmare, when it’s this close to home.”
Likewise, Michelle Hall, a 13-year West Vail resident, says she “started shaking” when she saw the blaze, which was contained in roughly three-hours.
“Those flames, it just makes it very real,” she says, adding that a recent small fire above Avon – as well as last weekends’ tiny grass fire in Stephens Park, also in West Vail – prompted her to “move that issue a little bit higher on my list of worries.”
A community activist who volunteers on the Eagle County Crime Stoppers board and is active in the town’s gymnastics program, Hall says she couldn’t sit still any longer.
“If something worries you, you have to speak up. You can’t just sit and stew,” she says.
With that, Hall, whose husband, Greg, is Vail’s director of public works, has decided to poll her neighbors sentiments in regards to fire service in West Vail.
A recent story in the Vail Daily quoted Vail Fire Chief John Gulick as saying a third fire station – no matter how needed – lacked public support. That gave Michelle Hall the idea.
Judging by the response to an “unpolished, grassroots” petition she began circulating over the weekend, a fire station in West Vail is both wanted and expected.
“I filled one page in two hours in the neighborhood,” she says. “It is nothing formal; it just asks people for their support for a fire station here. I just wanted to find out if I am the only one worried. So far I think this is worth the footwork.”
Hall says she has gathered about 20 signatures in less than two days and with minimal planning. She plans to distribute more petitions to others in the community and hopes to formally present the council with an impressive number of signatures at their July 16 meeting.
“I’m really worried this year,” she says. “You are in this smoke constantly and it’s only early July. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Brown, who is one of the 20 West Vail residents to have signed the petition so far, agrees.
“We definitely want a third fire station here. We were promised one years ago. I think they are way overdue on time,” she says, adding that she understands the council has other worries.
Despite living miles from the latest fire scare, Ed Drager, who has lived in Vail full-time since 1975, says Vail’s great firefighters deserve better attention.
“I was tremendously impressed by how quick they put it out,” he says of a regionally Monday’s coordinated response. “I saw guys from Gypsum and Avon helping out – I think that’s just great.”
Though his home in the Red Sandstone neighborhood is in jeopardy as much as any home in Vail with brittle vegetation all around, Drager says he isn’t worried.
“I have faith in our fire department,” he says. “It is just time that we help them out. I don’t understand why we are investing millions in a party place in Donovan Park when we have a real need here.”
Vail Fire Chief John Gulick says it is somewhat ironic that a drought and a few small fires may do more for his cause than studies and countless presentations to the council.
“It’s pretty funny to hear that there is a petition going around. It seemed for the longest time like there wasn’t any public support. People now seem to know that we need it and that it has been promised,” he says. “It’s flattering that people now would be supportive of a third fire station after it has been put off and put off again for so many years.”
West Vail residents interested in looking at or signing the petition can stop by Hall’s home on 2612 Cortina Lane, Hall says. “I have it posted by the door. That way people can stop by when they have time.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at firstname.lastname@example.org