Breckenridge’s newest fire station opens near Peak 7 in response to continued growth | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge’s newest fire station opens near Peak 7 in response to continued growth

The Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District opened its fourth fire and EMS station on Saturday in the rapidly growing Peak 7 area, which now accounts for roughly 400 of RWB's 2,000-plus annual calls.

The new station has been in the works for nearly a decade, when construction on the 114-unit Grand Lodge on Peak 7 began. Development has continued steadily since, and BGV is hoping to one day build what would be the town's biggest hotel just down the road near One Ski Hill Place.

"I think this station is going to serve a great purpose for the people up here from the base of Peak 7 to Peak 8," BGV's CEO Mike Dudick said during a Saturday morning ribbon cutting. "As you guys know, we're adding more and more keys and more and more people up here, and it's going to be great for public safety to have this station here."

Station 5 will be small, EMS-focused and staffed around the clock by a crew of two, although that's expected to go up to three in future years. It's attached to the Grand Lodge, which agreed to build the facility for RWB many years ago.

"This has been a very, very long time coming," RWB chief Jim Keating said. "It started a decade ago when this building was first planned … This is a great partnership between private business and government, because we could not build a facility like this without BGV's help."

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Keating estimated that around 75 percent of the calls in the Station 5 service area are for EMS, which is why it will have limited firefighting capabilities. It houses a Timberwolf off-road firefighting vehicle and a brand-new ambulance that also carries light firefighting equipment.

"The folks that come here to visit and a lot of the folks in the Peak 7 area are going to hugely benefit now from our EMS response because we're so close," Keating said.

Before Station 5, calls from the Peak 7 and 8 areas came from RWB's Station 6 on Main Street in Breckenridge, requiring fire trucks to travel up the long and windy Ski Hill Road.

That could slow down response times, particularly in the winter when road-blocking crashes are more common and the sharp curves become more dangerous.

"We're trying to be progressive with our planning," said deputy chief of operations Paul Kuhn. "That call load isn't going down, and this cuts that response time dramatically."

While that may be the case, however, the county government has argued in the past against staffing Station 5 full time, saying that ambulance response times countywide are already very low.

RWB is independent of the county, but like many fire districts in recent years, it is increasingly moving into ambulance service. That has led to some friction with the county government, which runs its own ambulance service and has licensing authority over other providers, RWB included.

While the county doesn't have any financial stake in Station 5, it said that placing another ambulance there would be fiscally irresponsible and have downstream effects on the wider ambulance system, which also includes Summit Fire and EMS, the product of a recent merger between Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and Copper Mountain Fire.

A breakdown in negotiations over EMS issues earlier this year nearly prompted the county government to strip RWB's ambulance license, but an interim agreement reached in August will prevent that until at least next season.

More negotiations lie ahead, but Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs was present as one of the many ribbon cutters on Saturday, a display of good faith from the county government.

"We've worked hard to collaborate and work well together," he said. "Even when there are challenges, Jim (Keating) and I work really well together."