Upper Pine Fire Protection District Station No. 4 on the north end of Vallecito Reservoir was built to house equipment for volunteers could drive it to nearby fires.
A lot has changed since then. There are no longer volunteer firefighters in the department. They also respond to lots more medical calls than fires these days.
To keep up with the changes, Upper Pine has added living quarters to the station, and this summer, it will house a full-time firefighter.
At an open house April 7, neighbors came to check out the utilitarian living quarters, and a few brave ones took some fire extinguishers to put out a fire, albeit a controlled one.
The decision to house a firefighter and add staff at the station was made partly in response to analyzing calls and fires in the area, said Bruce Evans, chief of Upper Pine.
Last year, staff responded to 78 calls from the station, and they tended to be medical calls for folks who were really sick. About 70 percent of the calls ended with an ambulance transport to the hospital, which is 25 percent higher than the district average.
Also, of the six house fires in Upper Pine’s boundaries in 2015, four of them were near Station No. 4.
Adding to the need, he said, is a 30-percent increase in visitors at Vallecito’s campgrounds, and a new equine rehabilitation program just up the road. The program can treat up to 50 residents for drug and alcohol addiction at the old Wit’s End Guest Ranch. That adds up to a lot more visitors coming to the area, Evans said.
“With the call volume here, it makes a lot of sense,” John Beebe, member of Upper Pine’s board who attended the open house, said of the remodel.
During the open house, Evans and Beebe displayed data from www.coloradofirerisk.com, which features fire data from the Colorado State Forest Service. The area mapped around Station No. 4 has a lot of dark red, meaning it’s at risk for a wildfire coming through.
Evans said the district has applied for a grant that would help homeowners mitigate the fire risk on their property. That can include taking out oak brush, cutting trees within 30 feet of a structure, and removing inches of pine needles, leaves and other duff, which is perfect kindling.
Deputy Chief Josh Lorenzen said one of the firefighters living at the station is a new hire. Other staffers will work at the station in eight-hour shifts, so the station always will be staffed with at least one employee.