West Vail finally getting fire station | VailDaily.com

West Vail finally getting fire station

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail Fire Chief Mark Miller said the West Vail fire station will reduce response times by about four minutes to what he calls Vail's most vulnerable neighborhood.

VAIL – When Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller took a huge sigh of relief last fall after the Vail Town Council approved the construction of a West Vail Fire Station, he was also sighing for fire chiefs, firefighters and town officials who have argued for a West Vail station for more than 30 years.

Talks about building a West Vail fire station have actually been going on since 1968, said Vail Deputy Chief Mike McGee, who has worked in the Vail Fire Department since 1977.

The Vail Fire Protection District managed the town’s fire response back then, and discussions about developing Highway 6 into an interstate were brewing, leaving the Vail Fire Protection District assuming there would “someday be some movement (development) in West Vail,” McGee said.

By the early 1970s, the three fire districts operating in the 13-mile space between East Vail and Dowd Junction did the first study, or master plan, for an overall Vail fire protection plan, McGee said. That study mentioned that eventually a West Vail fire station would be required to meet service needs.

By 1977, when Interstate 70 was being built, the number of calls coming into what was then two fire protection districts in Vail had doubled since 1974, from 300 calls a year to 600 calls a year. The mostly volunteer fire departments were stretched thin.

“At 600 calls a year, it’s tough to rely on volunteers to leave their jobs twice a day,” McGee said.

That’s the year McGee was hired, and by 1979 there were at least two paid people on each shift.

The town of Vail took over the town’s fire services in 1982, and a judge ruled that the town would take all reasonable steps to build a staff a new West Vail station by 1985.

Throw in an economic downturn and not enough demand to spend the money on such a station, and the town wasn’t in a big hurry to get it built.

But by 1986, more calls were coming in from West Vail than East Vail, McGee said. West Vail was developing quickly, and it wasn’t long before the number of calls in West Vail was twice that of East Vail, which had a station, he said.

“It’s been that way ever since (1986),” he said.

Now that Vail has added 6 million square feet of development to Vail Village, the Vail Fire Department is anticipating what that’s going to mean in terms of calls.

“We know our number of calls is directly related to the number of people,” McGee said.

He said that based on the “build it and they will come” motto, the department is going to be busy when all of these new condominiums and hotel rooms are open.

Former Vail mayor and West Vail resident Bob Armour is excited that the neighborhood is finally getting a fire station. He said it’s long overdue, and that the entire town is going to benefit from it.

“It’s going to be a nice upgrade to the Vail Fire Department,” Armour said. “I know the neighborhood is really excited about having something that was promised for years finally get built.”

Armour remembers part of the promise back in the early 1980s to those who lived in what was then unincorporated Eagle County.

“It was that (West Vail) would get fire protection in the area,” Armour said. “Maybe not immediately, but certainly not 30 years.”

Chief Miller said the station is going to reduce response times by about four minutes in what Miller calls Vail’s most vulnerable neighborhood. West Vail sits close to wildlands, has steep slopes, older homes and many part-time residents.

McGee said the entire town, not just West Vail, will now have faster response times.

“I’m glad to see it (getting built),” McGee said. “It’s needed.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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