Rifle, Burning Mountains fire districts merge on Sept. 26 | PostIndependent.com

Rifle, Burning Mountains fire districts merge on Sept. 26

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

NEW CASTLE, Colorado – Two fire departments will become one, sort of, at a special event on Sept. 26 at the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District firehouse.

Officials from the Burning Mountains district and the Rifle Fire Protection District will meet to sign documents creating the Colorado River Fire Rescue Authority.

The signing ceremony is the culmination of almost two years of negotiations and calculations involving the fire districts covering the region from Glenwood Springs to Rifle.

While Glenwood Springs officials have been active in the negotiations, an official said, they are not signing up yet.

The Carbondale and Grand Valley fire districts have not been involved in the merger talks, although each has its own mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire districts.

“It’s not a political merger, but an operational merger,” said Rex Rhule, chair of the Rifle Fire District board.

Rhule and Chad Harris, deputy chief for the Rifle district, explained that the two existing districts will continue to exist, with their boundaries and taxing authority intact.

But most of the funds collected from the two districts’ taxpayers, which will be continue to be collected by the distinct districts, will be used to run the new fire authority using equipment, personnel and resources drawn from the districts.

“The authority allows us to operate as a single entity,” Rhule said.

Harris added that the merger is expected to yield savings as the districts eliminate duplication in personnel, service and equipment. The personnel savings will come largely from the retirement of current Burning Mountains Fire Chief Brit McLin, while Rifle Fire Chief Mike Morgan will become chief of the Colorado River Fire Rescue Authority.

The Glenwood Springs Fire Department and the Glenwood Springs Rural Fire Protection District, which have been participating in merger talks for more than a year, will not be signing on just yet, according to acting chief Gary Tillotson.

The Glenwood Springs City Council, which governs the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, is still considering the deal, mainly from a financial viewpoint.

“They’re still evaluating whether the fire authority is a good thing for the city,” Tillotson said.

The same is true for the rural district, governed by a separate five-person board. Tillotson said the rural district is eager to join the regional fire and rescue authority but is holding off to see what the city does.

“The two departments have had a long-standing partnership,” said Tillotson, which involves mutual aid agreements and other collaborations that enable the departments to jointly cover a wide area.

Tillotson explained that part of the complication facing Glenwood Springs is figuring out how joining the authority would affect that existing partnership between the city fire department and the rural district.

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