Yes, that firehouse is still in use |

Yes, that firehouse is still in use

Aspen Times Staff Report

Basalt firefighters have discovered that they are better equipped to fight fires than public misperceptions.

Nine months after relocating their main office to El Jebel, fire district officials continue to battle the perception that they abandoned their Basalt station.

The old station has been coveted for a variety of community uses in recent months – everything from a skateboard park to a split facility that would also house a new library.

But Fire Chief Steve Howard said the district not only needs to keep the station to bolster its firefighting ability, it may eventually expand it to include housing. A second story that could house four employees is being considered.

For now, the old station near the entrance to Elk Run subdivision remains a vital key to responding quickly to fire calls, Howard said. The district still stores there a ladder truck, designed to fight fires in areas where hydrants are available; a tender or tanker truck, which hauls its own water; an ambulance; and a special truck designed to fight brush fires and wildfires.

The same equipment is housed at the new El Jebel station.

The two stations decrease the response times to calls for help in the sprawling fire district, which stretches from Old Snowmass to portions of Missouri Heights and up the Fryingpan River Valley.

The location of a fire or accident determines whether the response comes from El Jebel or Basalt. Sometimes, the severity of a call requires equipment from both sites, said Howard.

Paramedic Bob Richardson said many people don’t realize the Basalt station’s continued importance to the district.

“Everybody got confused when we moved our offices down to El Jebel,” Richardson said.

Proponents of a skateboard park in the driveway and parking lot of the Basalt station didn’t realize equipment could still come screaming out of the garage, he said. Once they did, many parents agreed it was an inappropriate site for the park.

Many ranchers and other rural landowners erroneously went to the Basalt station rather than El Jebel this spring to apply for burn permits, according to Richardson.

The district opened a 14,500-square-foot facility on land leased from the Crawford family in El Jebel. That new facility is more than twice the size of Basalt’s 7,000-square-foot facility.

Much of the difference is due to employee housing. There are three bedrooms and bathrooms in a portion of the upper floor of the El Jebel station. A kitchen and area known as a day room are below.

The district doesn’t have anyone living in those facilities right now, but a committee is hashing out details of employee-housing conditions. Essentially, the permanent housing will be swapped for hours committed to the district.

Howard said his goal is to have an employee living in a unit as soon as possible to provide help driving the ambulance.

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