After failure of a spring ballot initiative and an increase in call volumes, CRFR prepares for service reduction

With the mill levy defeat in the spring Colorado River Fire Rescue is moving forward with new staffing levels for the fire district

Jarod Robbins, a wildland engine assistant with CRFR, checks the oil on one of the fire engines at Station 43 during a routine equipment check Tuesday in Rifle
Kyle Mills / Post Independent

Colorado River Fire Rescue has seen an 11% increase in calls over last year so far — an increase which has the fire district working on a new staffing model to cover the district’s 851 square miles, and serve the communities of Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

CRFR Fire Chief Randy Callahan said that over the last year and a half they have been focused on budget cuts, sold surplus apparatus, repurposed other apparatus. The staff is currently working on combining roles of the administrative staff.

“I look at some of the decisions we are being faced with, and for me, they’re the toughest of my career,” Callahan said. “All the efforts we have taken in the last 18 months was to save firefighting staff, and with the mill levy not going through we are now at the point of cutting firefighter staffing.”

Just over two months ago voters defeated the fire district’s ballot measure that would have added 6.099 mills to the current levy, bringing on nearly $4.72 million to help balance the budget.

Callahan said by the end of the year they will go from five to three division chiefs, and combine finance and human resources positions. The cuts will take seven positions and combine them into four.

The six positions that have remained empty due to attrition will not be filled.

Callahan will also be leaving as part of overall budget reductions.

“The changes will have been completed at the end of the year with my departure,” Callahan said. “The plan is for a leadership transition, while I’m excited it’s been a great career, and I want to make retirement a joyous event, I’m also disappointed it’s connected to budget cuts.”

Operations Division Chief Leif Sackett will take over fore Callahan as the fire chief upon his retirement.

CRFR has six fire stations, four of which they staff, another is leased out to Interagency Fire, and one is unmanned. CRFR is evaluating numbers and data trying to determine which station has the least amount of impact to the system in anticipation of closing it.

“We have four stations to work with and unfortunately we are going to lose one of those most likely,” Callahan said.

For the full story see Thursday’s edition of the Citizen Telegram.

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