Growth drives need for a new fire station |

Growth drives need for a new fire station

It’s hard to believe that we really need four fire stations between Gerbazdale and downtown Aspen, but this is one of the costs of urbanization. In order to protect Pitkin County residents from the threat of fire, our local firefighting officials tell us, the community needs another station at the North 40 neighborhood near the Aspen Business Center.The Aspen Fire Protection District already has stations in downtown Aspen, Woody Creek and Aspen Village. From those stations, firefighters cover a district that stretches from Difficult Campground to Gerbazdale, and from Maroon Creek and Castle Creek valleys to Woody Creek canyon.When you consider where the fire trucks are housed, it’s easy to see there’s a vast zone in the middle without a station nearby. And that middle zone is filling with new residences. More are expected as the city of Aspen’s Burlingame affordable housing development takes shape.According to Fire Chief Darryl Grob, it will take an estimated 15 minutes-plus for a fire crew to reach a blaze at the North 40 from any of the existing three stations (remember, this is a volunteer fire department whose members must first come to the station before they depart to a fire). Trucks coming from the Hopkins Avenue station downtown must account for potential delays in the S-curves, while trucks from the downvalley stations must simply cover a lot of miles. By national standards, Grob says, this is an unacceptably long response time, and that’s why the district’s middle needs a new station.We can’t help but grumble that the city’s failure to fix the S-curves has forced the community to buy a new fire station, but Grob says the station would likely be necessary even with a new Entrance to Aspen. We support Grob on this one.With the addition of the North 40 and Burlingame developments, not to mention more homes in Maroon and Castle creek valleys, there are thousands of people whose lives and property could be at risk without a new station. The Pitkin County commissioners have approved the master plan and rezoning of the North 40 site, and it also has the support of the Aspen City Council.An e-mail campaign recently asserted that the fire district’s $14 million proposal would fund a fire truck to serve big new buildings in Aspen. But Grob has assured the public that the truck, though included in the original plan, has been removed. He hopes the district can purchase the truck through an impact fee on the new buildings themselves.One thing that the bond issue will pay for is an overhaul of the existing fire station on Hopkins, which was built in 1961.This is a matter of public safety. Get out to the polls on Tuesday and vote yes on Aspen Fire Protection District Question A.

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