Basalt first responder Christine Benton retires after 24 years of answering the call
Christine Benton was determined when she graduated from college in 1994 that she would find something to do to benefit society.
The Roaring Fork Valley was fortunate she achieved her goal.
Benton answered the call to help people in need for 24 years as a firefighter and paramedic for the Basalt Fire Department and Roaring Fork Fire Rescue, as the department is now known.
Benton’s peers honored her Friday for her years of service.
“She’s a fearless firefighter. She’s a great paramedic,” Fire Chief Scott Thompson said in his opening statements at the ceremony. He presented her with a fire helmet signed by staff and volunteers at the department. Thompson also gave her the first Distinguished Service Award coin he has ever presented.
Deputy fire chiefs and Thompson attended the ceremony in their full dress uniforms. The department color guard brought down the department’s United States flag, properly folded it and presented it to Benton. A bagpiper helped set the tone.
Former fire department volunteer and fire protection district board of directors member Bob Guion said “it was always good” to see Benton on a responding team, whether it was a medical or fire call. She had the training and demeanor needed to solve the problems.
“If I ever have (an emergency) incident with my family, I would want Christine there,” Guion said.
Benton kept her comments brief at the ceremony.
“It’s been a true honor to serve you guys and this community,” she said. “It just seems like yesterday I joined. I’m so proud to be part of this organization.”
Benton said after the ceremony she got inspired to join the department after meeting Gerry Ring, one of the early female volunteers. Benton figured she was signing on in 1997 to fight fires but the emergency medical calls consumed the department’s time. That led her to pursue various certifications. Benton was hired as a paid firefighter and paramedic in 2006. Over the years, she also worked part time with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department and with the Rifle Fire Department. Through all the years of service, she kept adding skills.
“I’m good at a lot of things. I’m not super good at one thing, but I like doing a bunch of things,” she said. “That’s what this fire department is about. You’re doing fire protection. You’re doing wildland (firefighting). You’re doing wildland-urban interface. You’re doing car wrecks. You’re doing medical calls.
“You’ve got to have all those skills here,” Benton said.
Thompson said Benton helped save lives as a paramedic and saved property as a firefighter. He recalled one incident that was a mixture of both. Benton was on the first engine to respond to a gas tanker spill on Highway 82. She risked her safety to evacuate people and spray foam to reduce the risk of fire.
Benton, 53, is married to another longtime member of the fire department, Brian Benton. They are retiring to hit the road in their recreation vehicle, with mountain bikes and dirt bikes in tow, to explore the West.
When asked what kept her involved in the department for so many years, Benton said it was the satisfaction of giving back.
“I wanted to contribute to society,” she said with genuine enthusiasm. “I wanted to give something back. I wanted to contribute my time to the community.”