RWB lieutenant leaves to lead Park County fire department
SUMMIT COUNTY Red, White and Blue Fire Department Lt. Mike Roll calls the opportunity to become chief of the North-West Fire Protection District a “fall into your lap kind of deal.”The 36-year-old firefighter has worked for Red, White and Blue in Breckenridge for the past three years, and was employed by Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue for four years before that, and hadn’t been seeking a higher rank.But Roll lives in Park County and the call of serving his community’s fire department beckoned.”… When the chief position became available, it just provided such an amazing opportunity. It was one of those things; I couldn’t not look into it and see what happens, I felt like it was the right thing to do,” Roll said.
Although his last shift in Breckenridge isn’t until Friday, he officially became the fire chief for the Park County district on May 1. The North-West Fire Protection District covers 278 square miles of Park County. It relies on a crew of 30 volunteer firefighters, on top of its three paid firefighters to staff stations in Alma and Fairplay. Roll expects to fill a fourth paid position next month in order to provide staffing seven days a week, to improve on the current Monday through Friday schedule.Roll said he knows his new job won’t come without its challenges. He’s walking into a department whose volunteers have spent that last several months in a heated debate with the fire board over communication issues. The conflict resulted in the resignation of the president of the board, an administrative assistant who had filed a restraining order against the assistant fire chief for allegedly grabbing a paper out of her hands then coming after her, and the fire chief, who had been placed on administrative leave shortly before his resignation, according to reports from the local newspaper The Flume.Though Roll said he hasn’t been involved in the controversy, it will be part of his reality as he transitions into his new job.
“Preferably you’d want to take a position where everything was smooth and the community and the board and the department are all on the same page … that’s not the case here,” he said.For that reason, he’ll devote the next 18 months in part to public education, hoping to mend the department’s relationship with the community.His other long-term goals are to create a strategic plan for the department and work toward achieving full-time staffed coverage using the department’s current budget. As a firefighter with nearly 20 years of experience fighting wildland fires, Roll would also like to focus on developing that portion of the department, starting with obtaining updated wildland fire equipment.With Park County’s population projected to bulge from 17,000 people to 90,000 people by the year 2030, Roll said the knowledge he’s gained from past jobs will help make sure the small district avoids the growing pains associated with expansion. “The experience I got at the larger departments, it’s definitely prepared me to kind of set ourselves up here so that if and when the time comes we need to expand, we’ll be prepared to do so,” he said.
For now, he said he’s excited to be a part of a district with so much potential in how and where it can grow.Roll was born in Colorado, but moved away with his family when he was in high school. He began fighting wildland fires while he was in college at the University of Vermont, then continued his summer firefighting career when he transferred to Colorado State University, and during a stint overseas at the University of South Australia.He moved to Summit County in 1998, and began volunteering with Lake Dillon Fire Rescue, which turned into a full-time public information officer position. He also served as one of the public information officers for Red, White and Blue.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at email@example.com.
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