Summit Fire Chief Jeff Berino receives Frisco’s Finest Award
FRISCO — The Frisco Town Council on Tuesday evening honored Summit Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Berino with the Frisco’s Finest Award, presented to residents who’ve made considerable contributions to the town and greater Summit County community.
Mayor Gary Wilkinson, a longtime friend of Berino’s, presented the award at Frisco Town Hall in front of a crowd — which included a number of Berino’s fellow firefighters and his wife, Janis — noting several of Berino’s achievements during his 40 years of service as an emergency responder.
“When we talk about Frisco and who is a part of Frisco, there’s no doubt that you’ve always been there,” Wilkinson said. “You’ve been available, you’ve been a valuable member of the community, and you deal with so many different things. … You understood what Frisco was and is, and that’s important.”
Berino moved in 1979 to Frisco, where he’s lived ever since. He began working as a ski instructor at Copper Mountain Resort in winter and as a construction worker in summer. He soon made his way into the world of firefighting in the area, taking on a summer job with a wildland hand crew before serving in a volunteer position with the Frisco Fire District the next year. He’d also go on to volunteer with the former Summit County Ambulance Service for more than eight years in the 1980s and 1990s.
Berino took the opportunity to reminisce about some of the old days serving with the department.
“It’s been such a pleasure to grow up in this town during my adult life,” Berino said. “And to watch this town grow from dirt main streets. When I started, the new things to call the fire department were pagers. I still have one — I’m old school, and the guys in the back laugh at me. Before that, we had a tsunami siren that would summon everybody. …
“In the ’80s public works had one bay and two or three people. They’d call the fire department, and we’d just get in a snowplow and start driving. We didn’t know where we were pushing the snow or what we were doing. But we got the job done.”
Berino made his way through every rank in the fire service during his time in the county. He was named deputy chief in 2005 after the consolidation of three fire districts into Lake Dillon Fire Rescue, and he took the helm as chief in 2015.
In addition to his work with the district, Berino has served on the county’s EMS board, on the county building board of review and taught fire science and EMS at Colorado Mountain College for more than 10 years — earning instructor of the year twice.
Berino also has been integral in a number of administrative changes of late, overseeing the merger between Lake Dillon Fire Rescue and Copper Mountain Fire, the consolidation of the Summit County Ambulance Service with Summit Fire & EMS, and helping to usher the district into its new administration building at the County Commons.
Perhaps most importantly, Berino responded to some of the area’s most critical incidences, including the Loaf & Jug explosion in 2004, managing response to Montezuma floods in 2014 and serving as incident commander during the 2018 Buffalo Mountain Fire.
Among other accolades, Berino has received multiple life saving awards from the Summit County Sheriffs Office, along with the Lake Dillon Fire Medal of Valor for his response to the Ophir Mountain Fire in 2005. Just last year, Berino was named Colorado Fire Chief of the Year before announcing his retirement.
While Berino is set to leave in July, community members likely will still see him out and about at events around the county. As a licensed pyrotechnician, he frequently volunteers to help with fireworks displays in Frisco and Copper along with Frisco’s annual Spontaneous Combustion Bonfire.
Berino also regularly participates in races throughout the area, including successfully completing 10 consecutive Leadville Trail 100 races, the Frisco Turkey Day 5K, the LAPS Canine 4K and more.
With a brief chance to look back, Berino lauded the many individuals he’s worked with over the years, along with town staff and his family.
“It’s nice coming to work for the past 40 years having a purpose,” Berino said. “… It’s knowing that when people call they’re having the worst day of their lives, and that’s what keeps us going.
“I couldn’t do it without that crew, or without a great town staff and all the help from previous town councils. And my wife — having to go at 3 in the morning, having to go in the middle of dinner. I couldn’t do it without all of your support. I’m honored to be a part of this community, and I’m not going anywhere.”
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