Vail Daily column: Vote ‘yes’ to fund needed fire upgrades
September 11, 2001, was the worst single loss of firefighter lives in history. The fire service lost 343 dedicated men and women that day. As a result, the profession is no longer viewed as merely a blue collar job for courageous thrill seekers. Today, they are heroes, and what used to be a relatively easy job to get became highly competitive. Shortly after the attacks, 75,000 applicants showed up to take the New York Fire Department test.
Along with that cultural shift came the higher responsibility of being a recognized professional. Firefighters today constantly work on new techniques with the latest tools and highly technical equipment. Most have college degrees, and a bachelors or master’s degree is now required to advance your career. To meet the rigorous demands of firefighting, physical fitness levels rival that of professional athletes.
As much as firefighters themselves have changed, so have the fires they fight. New lightweight construction combined with synthetic materials creates a faster, more dangerous enemy. Buildings that used to withstand fire for long periods can now be deemed structurally unsafe within just a few minutes. Firefighters spend countless hours examining fire footage and reading books on subjects such as how to “read smoke,” commanding the fire ground, and proper roof operations.
Locally, things are poised to change significantly as well. The county is expected to almost double in population within the next 25 years. In Avon alone, there are plans for approximately 2,500 new homes and more than 800,000 square feet of commercial space. Edwards and Wolcott are also prime for development.
Along with an increased population will come an increased call load for emergency response. The Eagle River Fire Protection District is in the process of preparing for those needs, and is asking voters to support the issuance of $25 million in general obligation bonds to replace two outdated and undersized facilities and construct a training facility that would allow firefighters to train locally instead of having to travel to Summit County or Dotsero.
The central fire station for the district has been in located in the heart of Avon since 1980. The town has grown considerably and the station is now surrounded by heavily used pedestrian areas. Emergent response through those congested areas has become a significant safety concern, not to mention that the station is too small to house the district’s ladder truck.
Last year, the district reduced its debt load considerably by selling the land for the new medical facility to the Nexcore Group and purchasing the adjacent lot at a much lower price. The district intends to construct a Joint Public Safety Facility there, which would relocate both the district and the Avon Police Department out of the center of town and closer to Interstate 70. In addition to improved response times, the proposed facility will also accommodate relocation of the district’s ladder truck, which currently is housed 15-20 minutes away in Cordillera.
In Edwards, call volume is rapidly approaching that of the Avon station. The Edwards station is located in a perfect spot for rapid response, but the building was constructed in 1985 as a temporary facility, and it requires substantial upgrades just to stay in business. The district plans to rebuild the station on the current lot, which will allow the district to centrally locate critical equipment and relocate the battalion chief to Edwards in order to better serve the area’s growing call volume.
These capital improvements are designed to stay abreast of growth in the valley and maintain the level of service the district provides to its communities. Approval of Issue A will result in a tax increase of approximately $4-$10 per month for most homes; about the cost of a cup or two of coffee. We encourage you to examine the facts and vote “yes” on May 3 for the continued safety of our communities.
Al Bosworth retired after spending 35 years in the fire service and currently serves as the vice-chair of the Eagle River Fire Protection District Board of Directors. The district responds to incidents from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott, including Red Cliff, Minturn, Eagle-Vail, Avon (including Wildridge), Beaver Creek (through an agreement with Beaver Creek Metro District), Arrowhead, Edwards, Cordillera, Bellyache, and Red Sky Ranch. The district also responds along the I-70 corridor as well as U.S. Highways 6 and 24. Al can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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