Fire reignites call for new station
Nothing like a good little scare to get those political wheels turning.
This time it was a little wildfire that, don’t tell anyone, might well have gone out on its own. It was set on a nearly windless, humid morning in light, still green vegetation on the hillside behind Safeway in West Vail. Topography mandated that the fire would pretty much creep mostly uphill, and firefighters couldn’t help but catch it quickly. It was so close to civilization they could even get hose around the little blaze. The town of Vail was hardly in peril.
Still, this being a drought year and with the mighty Hayman Fire just contained, the entire state under a dark pall from all the fires blazing in the West, and flames this close to West Vail, well, you can fully understand the concern.
And, of course, if the firefighters had never responded, the wind kicked up, the humidity dropped, by afternoon the blaze might well have made a little uphill run before it was over.
The firefighting effort in the morning would have to have been downright criminal for that scenario, though. Aside from the very rare rogue firefighter who sets a wildfire, that’s just not the way this breed is built. As a tribe, firefighters are the very best people on earth.
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Ironically, it took a nuthin’ little fire to animate the West Vail neighborhood. Decades have passed as the question of a West Vail fire station smoldered, town leaders dithered, and the fire chief showed study after study demonstrating a need for a station there.
Incredibly, Vail with its $40 million or so budget is struggling mightily to keep up with demands for service. A large part of the challenge lies in sales tax revenue that has not risen on pace with inflation, and too frequently drops.
Pedestrian requests for fire stations have come in second to frankly overpriced designs for a pavilion at Donovan Park and a slew of services for guests deemed necessities.
There are also grounds for debate about the need for a West Vail fire station, at least at the Town Council level, where elected leaders must attempt to balance spending.
The neighborhood is not exactly a hotbed of fire activity, nor is it all that far from the central station ideally situated between Vail Village and Lionshead, whatever the state of the building itself.
The rule of thumb for response to a structure fire is to get there in under four minutes. Four minutes is roughly the amount of time a match dropped into a wastebasket would develop into a fire that ignites built-up gases that have risen to the ceiling and thereby causes an entire room to suddenly go to flames. Catch the fire before that happens and you have a better chance of saving the structure, and lives.
The Vail Fire Department is close enough to fight wildfires around town. It’s the structure fires West Vail residents have more cause to worry about.
But if it takes a little wildfire to jump start the debate about the fire station, so be it. Residents should be concerned, even if they might be a little confused over what exactly they should be concerned about.
And this issue is well worth the time of the Town Council, which essentially has crossed its fingers each year it’s put off dealing with the fire station question.
A town that can afford Saabs for its police force and $10 million on a park surely has the means to provide better fire protection for the residents of West Vail. It’s really a matter of priorities. D.R.