The number of structure fires Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue responded to in 2013 dropped significantly compared to 2012, according to the agency’s annual report.
Of the 2,229 calls across the Lake Dillon Fire Protection District just 2 percent, or 43 calls, were in reference to a structure fire, a 28 percent drop compared to 2012. Property loss due to structure fires totaled $418,406, according to the report. Firefighters were able to save more than $13.5 million in property.
Steve Lipsher, public information officer for Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, said the decline in the number of structure fire calls is not an anomaly and that the trend is being seen worldwide. He attributed the decline to a number of factors, including better building construction, fewer all-wood buildings and a decreasing dependence on wood stoves for heat.
However, Lipsher didn’t want to discount the important role of the Lake Dillon Fire Protection District’s focus on public education and prevention in recent years.
“Truth be told, we just don’t respond to that many structure fires anymore, even though people always think of us primarily as a ‘fire department’ rather than what we are; an all-hazards emergency response department,” Lipsher said. “Public education, without a doubt, also has played a role, and the studies have shown that communities with greater public-education programs have lower incidence of fire.
“Both of those factors go toward fire prevention, which is what we want to achieve in the first place.”
The district’s fire prevention division hit a major goal in 2013 by adopting and implementing the 2012 International Fire Code. The International Fire Code is updated every three years. It was adopted by four special districts, five towns and Summit County Government, and went into effect Jan. 1.
The fire prevention division also led a number of public education outreach campaigns in 2013, which included teaching fire-safety lessons to 1,330 students over the course of 41 sessions at Summit County schools, as well as several public demonstrations during October’s Fire Prevention Week.
Although the district experienced a sharp decline in the number of structure fire calls, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue firefighters responded to an unprecedented number of hazardous materials accidents. Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue responded to 102 hazmat calls in 2013, which accounted for 5 percent of its total workload.
The majority of the hazmat calls were in reference to gasoline or diesel fuel spills, according to the report. The most significant took place in August 2013 on U.S. Highway 6 at Loveland Pass, in which an estimated 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into a fragile high-alpine environment and sensitive watershed.
But Lipsher said the increase could be due in part to the fact that even in its busiest years, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue has historically responded to few hazmat calls in the past. Given the small sample size, when there is an increase in hazmat calls, it’s noticeable, Lipsher said.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that the hazmat calls also are becoming more complex, Lipsher said.
“We have more bad stuff here — and passing through here — all the time, and new compounds and greater volumes of chemicals, fuels and even nuclear materials warrant more complex responses to ensure public safety first and foremost, and firefighter safety as a close second,” Lipsher said. “Given that we have a number of critical resources to protect — including our local population, Denver’s drinking-water supply, vital fisheries and fragile high-elevation ecosystems — and, of course, the increasingly stringent government regulations on cleanup, we are very conscious of trying to contain and remove the hazardous materials more thoroughly than ever.”
There were no reports of loss of life or serious injuries in connection with any of the department’s calls in 2013, according to the report.
The Lake Dillon Fire Protection District encompasses 45 career firefighters, 11 full-time staff members and 14 Fire Corps. volunteers. Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue has three 24/7 fire stations in Frisco, Dillon and Keystone.
2014 goals include continuing the pursuit of international accreditation and rolling out the department’s updated mission statement — “Unwavering dedication to serve our community with integrity, compassion and professionalism.” Hazardous materials-highway specialist also is among several certifications firefighters will be pursuing in 2014, the report stated.
The department’s 2014 general fund operating budget is projected to be $7,273,808, a 5 percent decrease compared to 2013. Projected expenditures are $7,165,327, a 1.6 percent increase over 2013.
Competitive salary adjustments averaging 4.5 percent were added for employees under the chief officer level.
The full report is available on the Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue website at www.ldfr.org.