It’s About Time column: Here’s to another 131 years of Glenwood Springs firefighting |

It’s About Time column: Here’s to another 131 years of Glenwood Springs firefighting

Bill Kight

For 131 years now, we’ve had fire protection that gives us peace of mind in Glenwood Springs.

The story starts in 1887, when the Isaac Cooper Hose Co. split, and the Rough and Ready Ladder Co. was created. That event resulted in two outfits competing to see which would be first to arrive at the fire scene with their hand-drawn carts.

Next came a horse-drawn ladder truck, used after the two organizations combined to form the Glenwood Springs Fire Department.

The first motorized fire truck arrived in 1913, until a more modern truck replaced it in 1939. That one was used until 1960, four years after the first pumper-type fire truck was purchased.

In 2000 there were 953 emergency calls. That remained static until 2014, when calls doubled to 1,864 annually, with a busy weekend seeing some 40 alarms.

On Aug. 14, 1967, Glenwood Springs Rural Fire Protection District was formed to serve areas outside the city limits, helping to bring funding and vehicles together for the greater good.

Known as the Glenwood Volunteer Fire Department until the early 1990s, the city department’s name changed once again when fire protection merged with ambulance services to become the Department of Emergency Services.

The final name change, reverting it back to Glenwood Springs Fire Department, came in 1999 and remains so today.

As the population grew so did the calls. In 2000 there were 953 emergency calls. That remained static until 2014, when calls doubled to 1,864 annually, with a busy weekend seeing some 40 alarms.

That brings us to today. With an increased demand for services, there comes a need to upgrade equipment that can address fire protection and safety needs of more complex times. With this comes a bigger price tag on new fire trucks. A fire engine that cost $337,000 17 years ago has nearly doubled, at a cost of $600,000 today.

All this history may not mean much to us as we sip our coffee over the morning paper — until something goes south. Maybe it’s a chimney fire, or a short in the Christmas tree lights while we’re away.

With the drought, high temperatures and wind that characterized summer 2018, it could easily have brought a brush or forest fire bearing down on our Glenwood Springs residential areas.

Then, of course, we call 911 and pray that help arrives in time.

We’re all human, and unless a fire or emergency involves us directly, this sort of catastrophe just isn’t top of mind.

This is where we can personally and proactively become involved through our local vote. If ballot measure 2A/6B fails to pass on Nov. 6, there are some tangible and very negative consequences. Staffing cuts will take place. That will likely cause a lower Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating, which translates into higher insurance premiums for everyone protected by the Glenwood Springs Fire Department and the Rural Fire Protection District.

Think that won’t happen? It almost did back in April 2006, when the front page of the Post Independent read, “Glenwood fire staffing raises threat of insurance rate hikes.” It was argued at the time that volunteers might be able to fill the need. After all, the department was almost all volunteer for much of its history. (In fact, for five years in the late ’80s, I volunteered with the department.)

The problem is that as the city grew, people got busier and the pool of folks able and willing to volunteer shrank. Plus the complexities of our modern world require professional firefighters and top-notch equipment.

Bottom line? We can pay now with a slight increase in the mill levy. Or we pay later with higher insurance rates. But the last thing any of us need to worry about is whether the fire department is ready to respond when we need them — and we will need them.

I urge you to vote Yes on Ballot Measure 2A/6B. If you need more information please come to the Issues & Answers event from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Glenwood Springs City Hall.

Bill Kight is the executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and writes a monthly column about history. He can be reached at 970-945-4448.

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