As COVID-19 cases remain high, Garfield County fire departments continue collaboration services

Colorado River Fire Rescue volunteer Mike Kelly Jr. unloads equipment from an engine during training at station 64 in New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Garfield County fire departments continue to work together to cover as much ground as they can as COVID-19 cases persist.

The Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District announced on Monday that it will continue to share resources and provide emergency medical support countywide through the “continuity of operations” plan. The partnership also includes Colorado River Fire Rescue, Glenwood Springs Fire Department and Grand Valley Fire Protection District.

The continuity of operations plan, adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, allows departments to strategically place ambulances throughout local communities to respond to calls more quickly and readily, according to a new release.

“It’s increased our communication between all the departments,” Colorado River Fire Rescue Transitioning Chief Leif Sackett said. “We have, every shift, the battalion chiefs and the captains of all the departments communicating, letting each other know what staffing availability is across the board.”

Colorado River Fire Rescue, which over the past year has had five of its 64 crew members test positive for COVID-19, will assist other departments in providing the best medical care and quick transport to the hospital, even if a fire department becomes short-staffed due to COVID-19, the release states.

Colorado River Fire Rescue Lieutenant Grant Stewart checks various controls on an engine during a routine maintenance check at station 64 in New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“So, that would come into play if one system starts to get busy and they’re short staffed, then we can move some resources throughout the county and do what we call a ‘move up’ from one department to the other to help cover those calls,” Sackett said.

CRFR covers 851 square miles surrounding Silt, Rifle and New Castle. After dealing with revenue shortfalls while voters denied a mill levy, CRFR closed the doors of fire station No. 43. The station, which was just south of Rifle, had one engine crew and one ambulance crew. Despite these challenges, the continuity of operations proved a major benefit, Sackett said.

“It came in very handy during wildland season,” Sackett said of the continuity of operations.

Heading into the winter season, however, the nature of emergency response will differ.

“We still have our EMS calls that are throughout the year – that doesn’t change,” Sackett said. “As we come into the winter season you start getting some of those slips, trips and falls types of calls due to ice and snow, as well as vehicle accidents.”

Right now, the Colorado River Fire Rescue district employs 11 personnel per shift, said Sackett. Meanwhile, full-time staffers work 48 consecutive hours before taking four days off.

“CRFR is in a good spot right now,” Sackett said. ” We’ve had some highs and some lows this year with the failed mill levy attempt and closing the fire station and attrition…. But our members have been fantastic and have been mission and value focused as we move through this uncertainty of covid and closing the fire station.”

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