Guest column: Rationale behind proposed Craig fire training facility
Why do firefighters need a live burn building and training tower in Craig when Hayden already has one?
There are two primary reasons for better training facilities in Craig — protection of the fire district and safety of our firefighters.
Craig Fire/Rescue maintains an excellent working relationship with the West Routt Fire Protection District.
We have used the Hayden burn facility many times since it was built.
The facility is great. The logistics of training at the facility are not.
The more training our firefighters receive, the better prepared they will be to respond to your emergency. It is not reasonable for our firefighters to train 17.5 miles from the city on a routine basis.
It is not safe for our district or our part-time firefighters.
Protection of the district
When Craig firefighters train in Hayden, we reserve the building in advance to ensure that West Routt firefighters are able to staff their building. We are required to bring at least one fire truck for water supply and a minimum of four firefighters plus supervisory/training personnel, which requires manpower and fire trucks to be out of the fire district for extended periods of time.
The building is most often only available on Saturday and Sunday, which means that Craig firefighters are out of the fire district on some of our statistically busiest days.
For Craig Fire/Rescue, it takes an average of 12 to 15 firefighters to safely manage a single-family structure fire.
Similar sized fires in metro areas often draw the response of as many as 50 firefighters. Craig Fire/Rescue currently employs 30 firefighters.
Each of those 30 firefighters has full-time commitments in addition to the fire department. On any given day we cannot guarantee that 30 firefighters are available for any given emergency.
The average is 15 firefighters. If we remove a minimum of five to seven firefighters from the fire district for training in Hayden, we have significantly reduced our chances of properly staffing calls in the district when an emergency occurs.
A crew responding from Hayden to Craig will take a minimum of 15 minutes in travel time, plus the time it takes to suppress the fire in the burn building, disconnect the apparatus from the water supply, put the tools and equipment back on the truck and return to the district.
This scenario puts Craig firefighters back in the district within 25 to 30 minutes in a best-case scenario. And this doesn’t account for the times when the department is paged to multiple calls within a short timeframe.
It simply doesn’t make sense to compromise response time to emergencies or leave the district shorthanded, putting the safety of the firefighters who do respond in jeopardy.
Live fire training is the only way to become skilled at fighting live fires.
Unlike almost every other skill we teach in the fire service, live fire can’t be simulated. We have access to cars for auto extrication; Tri-State for confined space training; the Yampa River for water rescue training; and the Bureau of Land Management for wildland fire training.
But, we can’t set fire to buildings and train.
In addition to logistical efficiencies and the ability to train anytime possible, training opportunities in a building in Craig will far exceed the scope of structure fires to include: Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, search and rescue, high/low angle rope rescue, HazMat, hose and water supply, aerial operations, ventilation, ladders, roof operations and building construction.
We simply can’t train in Hayden as often as we need to. We can and will train in Craig as often as we need to.
This isn’t an issue of board members or fire officers looking for another feather in their caps.
The only thing to be gained from better training resources and smarter training logistics is a community that is better protected by firefighters who are more skilled. These aren’t full-time employees with a desire for more “toys” to play with during their shifts.
These are committed individuals who volunteer their time to train so they can respond when you need them. Additional local resources only means one thing — your firefighters will commit more of their personal time to being better prepared to respond to your emergencies.
Some question whether the fire district has too much money. Some question why taxpayers aren’t asked how we should spend the money.
The Craig Rural Fire Protection District takes immense pride in the management of its assets and the building of solid savings through smart planning and execution — it’s what the taxpayers elected the board to do.
Over the past seven years, the fire department has supplemented nearly every major purchase with grant funding sought and secured by fire department personnel totaling about $900,000.
We don’t think this means we have too much money, we think it means we’re responsible. The taxpayers approved a mil levy increase in 2005 to help fund capital expenses related to equipment and apparatus.
Just as the taxpayers don’t want to determine the next piece of equipment the hospital should purchase, or whether the road and bridge department should purchase a new road grader, we hope they will elect the best people to represent the fire district and entrust us to spend the money in the best possible way for the district.
The people monitoring this process come from all walks of life — the power plant, business owners, and law enforcement. They are committed to doing the right things for the district and spending your money responsibly. After all, it’s their tax dollars, too.
As always, we encourage anyone to attend the board meetings, get involved in citizen work groups or meet with board members one-on-one.
We also encourage everyone to get out and vote for the board. This is typically one of the lowest voter turnout elections in Moffat County. In the upcoming election, taxpayers have the opportunity to elect incumbents or a new candidate for the board.
Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board members are: president Byron Willems; secretary/treasurer Chris Nichols; Alan Webber; John Forgay; and Tony Maneotis.
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Next week, Colorado Northwestern Community College and Moffat County are hosting a free day-long seminar for local ranchers and agriculture producers.