Volunteers ride to rescue for Basalt Fire Dept | AspenTimes.com

Volunteers ride to rescue for Basalt Fire Dept

Volunteers with the Basalt Fire Department respond last year to a vehicle fire in the midvalley. Total calls in 2015 increased nearly 10 percent over 2014.

The number of medical and fire calls in the midvalley is soaring to the point where the paid staff of the Basalt Fire Department would be overwhelmed without the help of the volunteers.

The total numbers of calls increased 9.6 percent to 783 in 2015 compared with the prior year, according to Fire Chief Scott Thompson.

Emergency Medical Services and rescues made up the bulk of the calls. There were 357 medical calls and 54 accidents with injuries last year. The department also responded to 29 accidents without injuries.

The department also responded to 32 fires of all types, including those in structures and on wildlands.

The number of calls that resulted in the transport of a person to a hospital in Aspen or Glenwood Springs shot up 13 percent last year, according to Richard Cornelius, division commander for the department. An ambulance and crew are out of service for at least one hour for a call. The growing population in the midvalley and the development of medical services has contributed to more calls, Thompson and Cornelius said.

At least two paid personnel — firefighters and Emergency Medical Service providers — are on duty 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The department has six full-time firefighters-paramedics and three chiefs. Even so, they can't handle the load alone. They are assisted by 50 volunteers.

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An average of five volunteers responded to incidents that required a response and that added up to a total of 2,517 volunteer responses for the year, Thompson said. Volunteers signed up for 2,570 hours of service where they were physically in the fire station.

Two volunteers responded to more than 200 calls. The requirement is to respond to 50 calls or 7 percent of the total, whichever is less.

A handful of volunteers put in more than 1,000 hours.

Each volunteer must put in 520 hours on call over the calendar year, with time at the station counting for time and a half. The volunteers combined for 4,583 hours of training in 2015.

As the call volume continues to grow, Thompson said, the Fire Department is going to have to assess if it can continue to offer the high level of service or must hire more paramedics.

The department is holding its awards dinner Jan. 30. Volunteers will be crowned in categories such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, Above and Beyond, and Maximum Training.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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