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Aspen firefighters mark 50 years

Eben Harrell
Special to The Aspen Times

The Aspen Fire Protection District will hold its 50th anniversary celebration over the Fourth of July weekend, district officials announced.

About 100 former and current volunteer firefighters are expected for the celebration, including seven of the 13 past fire chiefs.

The weekend will begin with a special presentation in the July 4th parade, including a demonstration of the hose carts used by firefighters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The parade’s grand marshal will be Sam Stapleton, who has been a board member of the Aspen Fire Protection District since its inception in 1953.

“This will be an unprecedented gathering,” said current Fire Chief Darryl Grob. “We’re making an effort to document as many of the faces and stories as we possibly can to enrich the long tradition of the volunteer department.”

The Aspen Fire Protection District was organized on Sept. 11, 1953, in an effort to modernize Aspen’s outdated and underfunded fire service.

Prior to the fire district’s inception, the city of Aspen maintained a department of five old hook-and-ladder trucks dating back to the 1880s. The department was not authorized to operate outside the city limits.

Over the past 50 years, the district has expanded its coverage well outside of Aspen, covering about 87 square miles, and has grown into a top-flight volunteer service. In the late 1980s, it became the first volunteer department in Colorado to require “Firefighter 1” status from its firefighters, the level required of full-time, paid firefighters.

This weekend will provide a unique opportunity for volunteers of all ages to gather and trade stories, organizers say. Festivities will include a post-parade barbecue at the station on Hopkins, followed by a gathering in Wagner Park to watch the fireworks, which, like always, will be set off by current members of the fire department. An open house is organized for Saturday, and the weekend will close with a private dinner at the St. Regis, at which Stapleton will be recognized for his longtime service to the district.

“It will be a long time before we equal an event of this significance for our organization,” Grob said.


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