After more than a year of discussions and research around a possible merger, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District officials have decided to remain independent, the departments announced Thursday.
"Merging these two organizations has proven to be very difficult, and, unfortunately we have many issues that we have not been able to resolve," Lake Dillon Fire board president Jerry "Doc" Peterson stated in a joint release from the two agencies. "Both departments remain committed to serving our shared community in a professional, efficient manner, providing excellent, seamless emergency response."
The departments attributed the decision to remain separate to differences in accreditation, big capital needs and internal structure.
The two agencies first announced plans for a possible consolidation in December 2011, citing opportunities to improve efficiency. At the time, fire officials called the merger "likely."
Merging might have meant sharing some fleet maintenance operations as well as some staff positions, but the two departments would have continued to tax separately, at least initially, officials said in 2011.
Still, fire district leaders say the process of exploring consolidation was useful as it highlighted information that will allow the two departments to build stronger. They left the door open Wednesday for future "joint ventures" in the statement.
"We'll continue operating as a team with our counterparts at Red, White and Blue, cooperating and collaborating on all manner of activities," Lake Dillon Fire chief Dave Parmley stated. "It's not going to change anything we're dealing with day-to-day, and we maintain an excellent working relationship across all divisions."
Red, White and Blue Fire chief Jim Keating said the consolidation discussions of the last year showed items that would require future study. However, he said the departments remain open to the idea of joining forces at some point in the future.
The two departments already share a training facility and frequently offer support to one another on more serious calls. Both responded to a recent structure fire at Farmer's Korner that resulted in the death of a resident.
Currently, Lake Dillon Fire covers a response area of more than 420 square miles, including the towns of Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne and unincorporated areas in the Lower Blue River Valley. Lake Dillon Fire also serves as the primary response agency for the Lower Blue Fire Protection District.
Red, White and Blue has a response area of approximately 130 square miles of the Upper Blue River Valley, roughly from Farmer's Korner south to Hoosier Pass and including the town of Blue River.