Vail Valley ambulances roll with record |

Vail Valley ambulances roll with record

Dustin Racioppi
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado “-Last year on Colorado’s Vail Valley felt like a busy year to Eagle County Ambulance District’s Operations Manager Peter Brandes. He felt right.

The district posted record numbers in 2008, responding to 13 percent more calls than it did the year before. There were 3,718 responses, which is an increase of 440 calls.

“Most of that increase was during ski season. We had great snow last year and we had terrible roads last year,” Brandes said. “Those are two things that tend to give us a big increase in business.”

The equation isn’t so simple to the district’s general manager, Fred Morrison.

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The district’s coverage area ” from just west of Wolcott to the top of Vail Pass ” has seen a healthy snowfall the last couple years, Morrison said, and there doesn’t seem to be one single factor in last year’s spike.

“I’ve studied, I’ve analyzed the numbers over and over and over again and I can’t find one common cause,” Morrison said.

With record snowfalls and a steady increase in population, Morrison said his crews will undoubtedly be busier.

“(Snowfall) contributes to more accidents. Another part of it is just growth,” he said. “As the community gets bigger, we’re going to see more calls.”

There’s one thing Morrison is sure of, though. The number of calls ambulances respond to on Interstate 70 is more than he’s ever seen.

“That’s just been going up and up lately,” Brandes said. “It’s just more and more becoming a major artery through our nation.”

Morrison said each year, the district calculates growth into its budget, but it’s hard to estimate just how much it will be. He has a full staff that was able to handle last year’s call volume, but a resort area can be unpredictable, he said, because of the transient population. He has no idea how many visitors will be in the area, particularly ones needing medical attention.

“We try to just look at years past and build in a little growth each year. Sometimes we get caught and we have to get some last-minute people working. Often times we’ve hit the nail on the head,” Morrison said. “It’s a challenge when you don’t have real solid things to hang your hat on.”

Even with inevitable growth, Morrison said the district will be sure to maintain its normal response time ” within about 15 minutes. A new Traer Creek station is slated to open in the late summer or early fall in Avon, and people have already been hired to man the station.

“We’ve been able to keep up. Not being able to keep up is not an acceptable option,” Morrison said. “

The number of responses by the Western Eagle County Ambulance District ” which covers the western half of Eagle County and an eastern portion of Garfield County ” stayed level from 2007 to 2008. But Deputy Chief Chris Dick said his district has transported more people to the hospital than last year, meaning there are more serious cases it’s responding to, like heart attacks and strokes.

“I think we’re definitely seeing more with the population in Eagle and Gypsum, we have more retirees, people that are starting to settle down there,” Dick said. “We used to respond to a lot of traffic accidents ” car accidents, bike accidents. We’re seeing a lot more medical problems, a sign that the population is aging.”

Dick estimated those types of calls to be up about 9 percent from 2007, which is actually more labor intensive for the responders.

“When we have to go 45 minutes up the road to Vail or Glenwood, that’s when we’re busiest,” he said.

Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or

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