A consultant has recommended that four fire districts along the 285 Corridor consolidate.
The consultant, AP Triton, said in a 225-page report released by the fire departments in late December that a consolidated fire district would create a regional approach to responding to emergency incidents within the new fire district boundaries, balance resources and produce shorter response times.
Elk Creek, Inter-Canyon, Indian Hills and North Fork officials have been talking for two years about whether consolidation makes sense, and the AP Triton report, which analyzed equipment, buildings, personnel, finances, property tax rates and more, confirmed what the chiefs believed was true: combining their resources would allow them to provide better fire and EMS services.
Consolidation would take a vote of residents in all four districts, and fire chiefs are suggesting that would appear on the ballot in November 2023. They want nearly two years to figure out how consolidation would work, align the cultures and communicate to staffs and residents how the new department would work. It will be a lot of work to make consolidation come to fruition.
In the meantime, they will continue to work together on such things as training and purchasing.
“Based on eliminating the duplication of efforts in all program areas and including personnel at all levels, a consolidated fire district would likely create efficiencies and effectiveness of fire protection and EMS throughout the communities,” the report said. “In addition, this would most likely create opportunities for adequate firefighter staffing throughout the new fire protection district.”
The four fire chiefs have said that one of the reasons to consider consolidation was a decline in the number of people volunteering to become firefighters while the number of calls is increasing.
In addition, the report said, “as a consolidated fire district, the organization would likely have a greater capacity to address wildland fire responses and provide mitigation programs.”
A combined department would be more prepared for wildland fire, the report says, because it would have more experts available and quicker response times to a fire.
According to the report, Inter-Canyon’s Station 3 on U.S. 285 would likely become the headquarters, and all personnel would be kept in the new department. AP Triton has a proposed command structure along with plans for all of the fire stations throughout the four fire districts.
AP Triton suggests that the departments create a new name with new branding, and the consolidated department could save money by using one records-keeping program, financial system and email system for all personnel. The combined department likely would be able to afford more equipment, it said.
The report looks at each department’s budget, personnel and resources, and proposes a budget for a consolidated district. It also suggests that the departments create working groups to look at the various aspects of consolidation such as governance, finance, administration, operations, volunteers, communications and logistics/support services.
The fire chiefs have said they need to communicate and work with all current staff to make sure consolidation makes sense for everyone.
AP Triton conducted in-person and phone interviews plus an online survey of volunteers and staff in all four departments, finding that 29% of respondents were generally in favor and 33% were in favor as long as consolidation improved services. Another 30% of the survey respondents had no opinion.
Respondents to the online survey, the report said, indicated that EMS and patient transport warranted the highest priority (72%), followed by wildland fire protection (49%) and personnel/staffing issues (35%).
The report said that with consolidation, the histories of the four departments needed to be honored.
“This history is important to document, frame and display to future personnel and the community,” the report said. “Additionally, should the districts move forward with consolidation, it will be important to preserve these organizations’ history and display the honor and respect deserved by each.”