Fire district tests training products, plants trees at training-facility site

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By Sandy Barnes

Two large pine trees are now standing on a hillside at Evergreen Fire Station 2. Their purpose is to provide screening for a proposed fire training facility, which nearby residents say they don’t want to see.


Mark Branch of Evergreen Landscape Design and Dougglas Spalding of Spalding Tree Service carefully planted the trees last Thursday. The tree project, which includes a retaining wall to hold them in place, cost the fire district approximately $15,000 over its $500,000 budget for the training facility. 

The fire district also is considering a request from residents to raise the wall in back of the property from 8 to 14 feet — another additional expense of $50,000.

Meanwhile, residents opposed to the project are gathering signatures for petitions to recall the five Evergreen Fire Protection District board members.

Because of the cost of the recall, which the fire district must pay, Fire Chief Mike Weege said that a decision hasn’t been made about raising the wall. An engineering study will be done to determine if the current wall can support an additional 6 feet, he said.

A previous recall election with mail ballots cost the fire district $65,000, Weege said. 

“If we did another mail-in ballot, it would be substantially more,” he said. 

The recall of fire district board members five years ago included a discount because the mail-in ballots were incorrectly printed, Weege noted.

In response to residents’ concerns, the fire district also hired an industrial hygienist to test two types of theatrical smoke in conjunction with an aspen-based excelsior originally planned for use during live burn training.

Opponents to the training facility have said that a mineral oil product that the industrial hygienist recommended for use might create hazardous airborne matter that would linger in the atmosphere. They also have questioned the proposed use of a water-based theatrical smoke product called Froggy’s Fog.

Using a training facility at Fairmount Fire-Rescue near Golden, industrial hygienist Joe Gifford of Denver tested the air quality inside the building using excelsior and theatrical smoke products, said Weege.

The smoke produced with Froggy’s Fog did “lay down” — as predicted in heated conditions, Weege said.

When mineral oil was tested with heat in the building, it did not create a separate toxic substance, he said.

“Once it’s released into the atmosphere, it dissipates,” Weege said of the mineral oil.

In the months since the fire district announced plans to build the training facility, residents have asked that other sites be considered other than Fire Station 2.

The fire district delayed the project for three months to allow citizen review and comments.

During a special meeting Nov. 20, the district board reviewed a list of requests presented by resident Lynn Rehkopf, who has been negotiating with board members and Weege. At the top of Rehkopf’s list was that mineral oil not be used during training sessions.

While saying she would prefer that the facility not be built near her home, Rehkopf and some of her neighbors have decided to work with the fire district board and Weege rather than continue objecting to the plan or participate in a recall effort.

Rehkopf has said that a recall is not in the best interest of the community.

The project is in final stages of negotiation with the contractor hired to place the prefabricated building at the fire station, Weege said last week. 

Because of the length of time a recall process requires, the training facility project could be in progress before a special election can take place next spring.


Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.