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Recall petitioners represent fraction of fire district residents

Editor:

The recall petitioners filed signed petitions that triggered the recall process for all five volunteer members of the Evergreen Fire Protection District board of directors. This recklessly disregards the election procedures for virtually every county and state agency in Colorado. The statutes never provide for a full upheaval of all board members responsible for critical life safety issues in a single election. We believe replacing all five board members at the same time will greatly damage the provision of ambulance, rescue and fire services, not only to the Evergreen Fire Protection District, but to all surrounding districts and counties. The petitioners’ single-issue argument over the replacement of a training building is spearheaded by a tiny fraction of voters in a small localized neighborhood. Is their motivation to benefit the whole Evergreen community or something more self-serving? Let’s look at four key issues:

1. Health and safety of the community:  What is the most important vehicle the Evergreen Fire Department drives? An ambulance. The Evergreen Fire Protection District is a complex business providing two of the most critical services to the Evergreen community: life safety and fire-suppression and protection. The 91 life-safety-trained volunteer firefighters and EMS paramedics arrive on scene in an average of eight minutes in our rural mountainous community. Most paid fire departments can’t match that service. The recall petitioners concerned with the safety of our community are trying to recall all five directors with reckless abandon.

2. Training for firefighters: Live fire attack and interior fire rescue are high-risk, perishable skills that require continuous recurrent training to maintain competency and are critical requirements of the EFPD’s taxpayer-approved master plan. The recall petitioners have ruled out ALL burn training in Evergreen, which not only prevents interior fire attack and propane tank fire mitigation training, but will also prevent wildland fire training in remote areas of the district. We believe firefighters, charged with protecting the 125-square-mile district, should be able to train in the district they protect under the conditions they will surely encounter someday.

3. Quality of life: Ask residents who have lost all their belongings in a house fire what it did to their quality of life. Ask the residents displaced from the recent massive wildland fires if they would ever consider such a potentially catastrophic change to the management of a most critical service — that every resident of Evergreen depends on to maintain their quality of life.

4. Fiscal responsibility: What is the cost of 57 meetings over the course of six months to specifically address concerns and requests from the surrounding neighbors by the board members, a recall election and the careless endangerment of the morale of 91 volunteers? A conservative estimate of the financial impact to the district to replace a destroyed volunteer force with a paid department triples the current tax rate.

We assume that all the signers of the recall petitions were made fully aware that their signatures would contribute to an expensive recall election paid for with residents’ tax dollars — and that the petitions were not going to just be another negotiating tactic. The recall petitioners seem to think these signatures (less than 2 percent of Evergreen voters) entitle them to speak for the Evergreen community. They do not.

Charlie Neppell

registered agent

Committee to Save the Evergreen Fire Rescue District — No Recall

 

Fire board recall is a result of irresponsible decisions on burn building

Editor:

The committee and the citizens launching the recall of the EFPD board members believe the members have made irresponsible decisions, have failed to provide leadership and have interacted in a subpar manner with the community. These concerns have come to our attention during our interactions with the EFPD board in regard to the plans to erect an industrial class-A burn building at Evergreen Fire Rescue Station 2. As concerned citizens, we think it’s important for the community to understand the basis of our opposition to the burn building. There are four main concerns: health and safety for the community, training for the firefighters, quality of life for the community, and fiscal responsibility.

Quality of life for the community: What is great about living in Evergreen is not only what it has, but also what it does not have.

People live in Evergreen for many reasons. The enjoyment of looking out the window at beautiful trees, mountains and clear blue skies lifts the soul. The serenity of living away from the detriments of big-city living is beneficial to our families. It is great having hiking, biking and running trails practically in our backyards, as well as open space nestled between homes.

Those who choose to live here are willing to commute to work, drive down the hill to purchase goods and services not available in the community, and organize themselves into carpools to give their children access to special school programs, sports and other activities. Residents are happy to trade small inconveniences for living in our unique mountain community. We love living in a place where others come on weekends to take part in the beautiful outdoors we call home. 

Lightly made reckless decisions will impact the quality of life of Evergreen residents. Irresponsible decisions, like putting an industrial class-A burn building in the middle of homes, open space and trails, are not acceptable. The EFPD board’s choice to move forward with the burn building shows a lack of consideration for their neighbors and a lifestyle choice dominated by outdoor activities.

We want to keep Evergreen safe and beautiful. We strive to maintain the high quality of life of this special community where we have chosen to raise our children. We fight to protect our home values from negative impacts and danger of unnecessary projects in inappropriate locations.

Nancy Barish

Evergreen

 

Fire-training building will provide critical experience for firefighters

Editor:

Things have certainly changed a lot from the Evergreen I knew and grew up in since 1946. We knew and supported our neighbors and helped them in their efforts to make our community a better and safer place to live. I can remember when Evergreen had no organized or trained fire department, and the only equipment available was a 1-ton truck, hauling about 200 gallons of water, and 200 feet of hose. The truck was owned by a private security organization known as the Mountain Protective Association and operated by volunteers. 

As a boy, in the summer of 1948, I remember helping to put out a grass fire at a home several miles up Upper Bear Creek Road — that was the inspiration for the formation of the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department. A group of local businessmen and residents took the lead and formed the volunteer department and later the Evergreen Fire Protection District. After the formation of the district, money for support could be raised through real estate taxes.

During the late ’40s and ’50s when funding was tight or non-existent,  community volunteers spent countless hours converting trucks into firefighting vehicles. Money was raised through various fund-raisers, including bake sales on Main Street and voluntary donations. Many small-business owners (later I was one) answered the fire siren at no small cost to our businesses, to do what had to be done immediately to protect our homes and community. Then, as is still the case, many a night’s sleep was lost working a fire. The next day we still had to go to work to keep our businesses open. Then, as now, after fighting a fire for hours, additional hours are required to refuel equipment, refill water tanks, wash trucks, repack hose and clean tools to be prepared for the next emergency.

In consideration of the sacrifices and countless risks to life and limb, innumerable volunteer hours are put in by members of our fine fire department. I find it incomprehensible that some (mostly newcomers who reside in homes built after Station 2, which always included an active training area, and who live approximately 600 feet or more away) are so selfish as to blatantly refuse to make even the smallest sacrifices, to tolerate seeing the top of a training building, and some noise or lights emitting occasionally from training activities. I know that the fire department would not intentionally release any smoke or air pollution that would be a significant health hazard. The proposed emissions have been verified as safe by the Jefferson County health department and other agencies.

Be thankful that our volunteer department — one of the best in Colorado — volunteers the time and effort to improve training to offer superior protection for ourselves, our homes and properties. Our department is our only line of defense against total destruction of our community, as has been made clearly evident by recent disasters in our state. 

There is no doubt that the volunteers residing throughout our large district offer much quicker and better response than a paid department ever could, even at an additional cost to taxpayers of millions of dollars per year. Kudos to our volunteer district board for the stand they have taken in considering the district and community as a whole instead of the unproven complaints and selfish concerns of a few. The board has gone far and above in their efforts to mitigate the real or imagined concerns regarding the training facility, and they deserve our support.

Bill Sandifer

retired captain (20 years service)

Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department