Your Durango Fire Rescue Authority facing challenges

Saturday, July 16, 2016 1:54 PM
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald ¬ 10/22/2015- Durango- Durango Fire Protection District Chief Hal Doughty.

This month, I would like to highlight some of the future challenges facing Durango Fire Rescue Authority, and our ability to provide fire, rescue and emergency medical services in our community.

There are many issues currently coming to light with public services and to what level local government should be funded to answer those issues. Fire and emergency medical response are no exception, and we believe that our community considers them to be essential to our well-being and quality of life.

As with everything else, there are significant costs associated with providing fire, rescue and EMS services within our community. As an example, a typical fire truck that pumps water to put out a building fire costs nearly half a million dollars – ladder trucks can top over a million dollars. An ambulance to deliver lifesaving advanced life support costs over $250,000 to purchase and equip.

The costs of acquiring land and building facilities equipped to house personnel and equipment for emergency response are very high as well. Our ability to provide rapid response in fire and EMS emergencies can make the difference between successful intervention and tragic outcomes, so fire stations have to be strategically located throughout the community.

“It is the fiduciary responsibility of the board to ensure financial strength through strategic planning so that Chief Doughty and our valued members (paid staff and volunteers) may continue to provide emergency services to our community,” said Kathy Morris, board president.

Durango Fire Protection District operates with about 180 dedicated professionals from our community who encompass and support our response forces. These responders range from full-time paid personnel, part-time, seasonal and contractual employees, to volunteers who offer their time and expertise across literally thousands of hours annually to be ready to answer your call and respond to provide service in your time of need. When an emergency is reported, Durango Fire Protection District immediately sends a compliment of appropriate equipment and personnel to handle the problem. This is usually a combination of the closest station and volunteers, along with the closest on duty career staff. We send this combination so that we can assure the most immediate help arriving on scene.

Our current staffing level puts only 18 responders on duty at a time (career staff). We augment these numbers with our volunteer responders and our administrative staff who have the ability to respond to emergencies. In 2015, Durango Fire Protection District responded to 4,832 calls – an average of about 13 calls per day. Additionally, our call volume has increased each year over the past several years – meaning we are trying to provide significantly more service with the same levels of staffing and resources. Our ability to continue into the future will almost assuredly require adding personnel.

In the next three months, we will highlight these three categories of challenges for the organization. We will individually share our strategic needs for stations, emergency response vehicles and staffing in order to help provide clarity on our ability to serve you and our community.

Thank you very much for your support and your interest in our organization. We look forward to serving you into the future.

Hal Doughty is fire chief for Durango Fire and Rescue Authority.