State Bridge blaze revives fire debate
Vail, CO Colorado
BOND ” Jeff Gibson has a better chance of putting out a fire than waiting for firefighters to arrive at his business, Rancho Del Rio, he said.
Even after the State Bridge fire, Gibson said the northern part of Eagle County still does not need a fire station, he said.
“Even if we had one in McCoy and it responded to Rancho, I don’t think it would stop anything,” he said.
The June 2 fire ” that destroyed the main building at State Bridge and that police have called arson ” has some talking about whether the north central nook of Eagle County should have a fire station.
Unlike the rest of residential Eagle County, the area near Bond and McCoy is not in a fire district. That means that if a fire erupts in a resident’s home, the law does not require firefighters to respond to put it out.
It’s the last and most significant area in Eagle County without a fire station, emergency service officials say.
Scott Stoughton, general manager for State Bridge River Resort, thinks a fire station in northern Eagle County would be a great idea, though for selfish reasons, he said.
The first fire truck arrived at State Bridge 30 minutes after the first 911 call was made, police have said.
“Whether or not it would have saved me, I don’t know,” Stoughton said.
State Bridge would have burned down even with a fire station in Bond, said Chief Charlie Moore of the Eagle River Fire Protection District.
“If an arsonist wants to burn your building, they’ll find a way to do it,” Moore said.
State Bridge didn’t have sprinklers or any other way to extinguish the blaze, but Gibson said he and many of the area’s ranchers have their own ways to protect their properties, he said.
“Those kinds of people are a little more self-sufficient,” he said.
Gibson has gasoline pumps that can shoot water from the Colorado River through hoses to put out a fire at his whitewater rafting, kayaking and trout fishing outfit, he said.
The Eagle River Fire Protection District will not respond to a fire near Bond and McCoy unless the Eagle County sheriff orders it ” as in the State Bridge fire, Moore said.
The State Bridge fire is a good example of why the area should be in a fire district, said Chief Dave Vroman of the Gypsum Fire District.
“They’re kind of in the hinterlands, they probably should have their own group if they could put it together,” Vroman said.
Barry Smith, Eagle County emergency management director, also thinks the area should be in a fire district, he said.
“We’ll see how much State Bridge changes awareness and changes opinions,” Smith said.
Police have some “persons of interest” in the State Bridge fire, but do not have any suspects in the arson, said Detective Brandon Beaudette of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
Beaudette wants to do those interviews “this week or early next week,” he said.
“I’m trying to get more info before I contact them,” Beaudette said.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has not yet completed its analysis of soil samples from State Bridge that contained “accelerants” that made the fire burn faster, Beaudette said.
Volunteer firefighters and north county residents wanted a fire station years ago, but they could not agree on who would run the station, residents said.
Some wanted a volunteer fire department, others wanted the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District or the Eagle River Fire Protection District to run a station in Bond.
In 2005, voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum that would have put the Eagle River Fire Protection District in charge. Now fire trucks that were donated for the department are parked unused.
“Egos and personal agendas got in the way and it just dissolved,” said Mike Lederhause, who supported a volunteer fire department east of McCoy.
Annexation into a fire district would have cost taxpayers too much, Lederhause said.
Merrill Hastings, who supported joining Eagle River Fire, thinks that someone could die next time there’s a fire like the one at State Bridge if there’s no fire station, he said. Hastings raised $48,000 dollars for a station in Bond, he said.
“They lost everything,” Hastings said about voters’ decision. “We spent nine years building this.”
The station would have cost millions, Moore said.
“If you’re not paying into a fire district, you can’t expect us to come up there,” Moore said. “How are we going to get our costs reimbursed?”
Moore recommends installing a fire alarm or sprinklers as alternatives to a fire station, he said.
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or email@example.com.
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