Fire districts in talks about possible merger

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When the Black Forest Fire started Chief Bob Harvey of the Black Forest Fire/Rescue said he saw the smoke and immediately called it in and requested a brush truck.

He said the response was quick from neighboring departments including the city of Colorado Springs.

“The response was phenomenal,” Harvey said.

When the call went out, the departments on the north end of the county automatically responded because it’s all part of a mutual aid agreement.

Anytime a call goes out for large scale incidents such as a wildland fire, structure fire or a hazardous spill, the departments on the north end of the county all respond whether the incident occurs in Black Forest, Palmer Lake, Monument, Gleneagle or elsewhere in northern El Paso County.

The departments are collectively called the north group.

This group is made up of Black Forest Fire/Rescue, Westcott Fire Protection District, Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Falcon Fire Department, United States Air Force Academy Fire, Cimarron Hills Fire Department and Larkspur Fire Department.

It makes sense that these small fire districts would come to the aid of one another but some are talking of merging their departments.

“We are in serious talks with Westcott,” Harvey said.

The two departments have been talking of a merger for years and just recently Westcott appointed board members and staff to be a part of a committee with Black Forest Fire/Rescue to discuss a possible merger.

“I think one day we’ll see a full north department,” Harvey added.

No one knows what a future merger would look like but Harvey said by merging they could combine training and apparatus. It would be cost effective. Black Forest Fire and Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection Districts just recently passed mill levy overrides.

Voters approved a 4.25 mill levy increase in November of 2011 for Black Forest Fire/Rescue taking the mills from 4.965 to 9.215 and in November of 2012 voters approved a mill levy increase from 8.5 mills to 11.5 mills. Westcott is considering a mill levy increase from 7 to 11 mills.

Harvey said if the north group should become one department it would be farther down the road.

Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Chief Chris Truty is aware of talk about consolidating districts. Truty was sworn in as fire chief in May.

“Will northern El Paso County ever end up as one district, I don’t know enough to comment on. I’m aware of Black Forest and Westcott’s efforts and will certainly watch and learn from what happens with them,” Truty said. “There are various forms of inter-organizational cooperation with full consolidation obviously being the highest goal. The North Group does have good working relationships between each of the departments that will be manifested in the various ways that each district has defined their needs. TLM is definitely part of that good team. The ultimate destination though for TLM will be what is best for its community members and I still need to spend a great deal of time reviewing consolidations from this perspective.”

“Improved effectiveness and better response times are what the element is,” Harvey said of consolidating.

Harvey said there are no plans to get rid of any of the volunteer firefighters in Black Forest and as a result of the fire they have received a big response of citizens wanting to volunteer. Even during the fire Black Forest residents who had lost their homes were in the fire station helping out wherever needed.

“This community is incredible,” Harvey said.