Copper Mountain and Lake Dillon fire districts agree to join operations |

Copper Mountain and Lake Dillon fire districts agree to join operations

The Copper Mountain Fire and Lake Dillon Fire districts are combining operations and creating a new fire authority, Summit Fire and EMS, through a merger that could bolster the abilities of both districts.

The agreement is not a full, formal consolidation, according to a Friday news release announcing the merger. However, the two departments will effectively operate as a single agency, both in their on-the-ground emergency-response operations and administration, under the direction of a joint fire-authority board.

For legal purposes, each district will retain its own elected board of directors and continue collecting property taxes separately.

Tax rates will not change as a result of the merger, according to the release. However, the new arrangement should cut costs over the long run, as the two fire departments find efficiencies working together under a formal arrangement.

While the merger effectively combines the two emergency-response agencies into one, the districts have had a less formal partnership for quite some time now.

“For years now, our firefighters have trained together and worked together seamlessly when it comes to emergency response,” said Tom Malmgren, president of the Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District board, in a prepared statement. “This means that we’ll all be on the same page when it comes to administration and overhead, as well.”

For Lake Dillon Fire Protection District board president Jim Cox, the consolidation is commonsense decision-making.

“We share many resources already and have the same culture and desire to best serve Summit County,” he noted in the release. “And even better, everyone put aside their egos and acted selflessly to make this happen. This really is a no-brainer.”

Because Copper Mountain Fire has operated as a division of the Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District, officials have had to isolate its finances — tax revenue and budgets — to support the creation of the new fire authority.

While the two fire departments have developed a new organizational chart together, no jobs will be lost, according to the release. However, “several redundant positions” will be axed through attrition and reassignment.

One major benefit of the merger is having four 24-hour response stations and a larger pool of on-duty firefighters. That is expected to reduce overtime by having more people to cover for sick days, vacation time, seasonal demands and special events. LDFR chief Jeff Berino will assume the duties of chief of the joint fire authority.

Summit Fire and EMS will soon unveil a new logo to replace those currently on the departments’ uniforms, fire engines and office letterhead. Some Copper Mountain Fire and Lake Dillon Fire identifiers will remain in place, however, until existing equipment, supplies or clothing is worn out and needs to be replaced.

A signing ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Lake Dillon Fire Station No. 2, 301 S. Eighth Ave. in Frisco.

The announcement comes on the heels of a temporary resolution to a months-long stalemate between Summit County government and the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District.

The county and RWB have been locked in negotiations over out-of-county transports and RWB’s role in Summit County’s wider ambulance system, for which the county has exclusive authority to grant licenses.

In mid-May, the county threatened to revoke RWB’s authorization to transport any Summit County patients unless RWB agreed to join the countywide out-of-county rotation that includes the Summit County Ambulance Service, Lake Dillon-Fire Rescue and Copper Mountain Fire-Rescue.

In August, the county and RWB reached an interim agreement in which RWB conceeded to do some of those transports. The short-term deal keeps RWB running at full capacity until April 30, 2018.

It’s unclear how or if the merger could affect those on-going negotiations.

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