“How can I help?” is a wonderful phrase for any volunteer group to hear.
As a community based fire department, Fourmile has always relied upon, and greatly benefited from the wide variety of talents that people in our district continue to bring forth. If you live in our district, are feeling community minded, and are looking for ways to get involved, we would be glad to talk to you. So please join us for a few trainings – if for no other reason than to meet us and learn what YOUR fire department does for you.
A message from the Chief:
Why I became and stayed a volunteer firefighter
By Chief Gibson
- Serve my community. I have always felt that we have a symbiotic relationship with the communities we live in. It is the community’s responsibility to protect the individual and in return it is incumbent on the individual to protect or serve the community. While Fourmile may not have a real community center or even a defined identity it is filled with folks who quickly describe themselves as mountain residents who love thier little canyon.
- Help those in trouble. This part is a bit selfish on my end. The pleasure I get from simply holding a door open for someone or lending a hand to help someone move is really nice. But when you are fighting a fire or aiding some crash victim and see the relief in that person’s eye. Well that is a feeling that stays with you just like a good Sunday brunch, it keeps you warm and happy all morning. Not that all victims are happy to see me and some even curse me. But in retrospect I have always found a reason for the response. No we did not save their home and at the time they had to place their anger someplace. Or the drunk driver who now knows he is going to jail and is passing blame to me.
- Be a part of a top notch group of neighbors. What better group of people to get to know than one’s that will get up a 3 am to pull someone out of the creek in a snow storm?
- Be trained in a wide range of skills. In my 26 plus years I have gained a lot of knowledge. From fixing trucks to fighting fire. Managing people in crisis and becoming a teacher. Pumps, saws, helicopters, and government red tape are skills I am proud of. I can look someone in the eye and know just how serious the situation or the medical condition is. I really do know what to do in most emergencies.
- Grow as a person. I could really write a book here, but let’s keep it short and say that as a person I am much more compassionate and sympathetic to how people live and interact with the world around them. Seeing people in some of the worst moments of their lives and witnessing the courage and gratitude they display is inspiring.
- Drive big red fire trucks. No explanation needed here.
- Get woken up at 3am. Was a lot easier when I was twenty. Once you get the routine down it gets easier. The comradery of your fellow firefighters who also are up at 3am is really pretty sweet. The reality also is that less than 10% of all calls are that early.
Chief, Bret Gibson, contact by email or phone (303) 449-3333.
Not everyone needs to be on the front lines holding the hose, so the important thing to remember is that just about everybody has something to offer, and without volunteers, there would be no fire department. There are a variety of ways you can participate.
For those that want to be directly involved in the emergency response system, there are plenty of opportunities for both men and women, ranging from wildland fire fighting to first response with medical emergencies. If you are looking for other ways, you might consider any number of possibilities. For example, we need people willing to help maintain the trucks, equipment and stations. We also have an auxiliary group that provides many supportive functions. Like any volunteer group, we welcome help on the organizational side: writing grants, improving our database, community education, articles for the newsletter, sharpening tools, or even baking goodies for training sessions!
We respond to everything from roll-over injury accidents in Boulder Canyon to structure fires in remote locations, medical emergencies, or wildland fires that threaten the forested areas and homes. In a typical year we respond to 80 to 100 calls, with more than 70% having some medical component to them. Fourmile does not use any kind of shifts or scheduling for being “on call” to respond to emergencies. We are a small, unique department with special needs that are better served by the following strategy: anyone who can respond to a call, does so. Generally we get a good response, and this self-balancing system seems to compensate for people being out of town, sick or otherwise unable to respond. This also insures that we have a good mix of people with different types of training responding to the call – no matter which end of the district it occurs in. Calls can last from 45 minutes for a minor emergency to all day for a wildland fire. How much time you spend responding to calls depends on you.
Training is, by necessity, a big component of what we do. We meet for about 3 hours in the morning on the second Saturday of each month, and for 2 hours every fourth Thursday evening of each month. Additional medical training is the second Thursday evening each month. Other training opportunities exist both inside and outside the department as well.
Fourmile provides frequent in-house training sessions covering basic incident operations such as driving fire trucks, running pumps, structure fire safety, medical evacuations, traffic control, and digging fire line. Once a level of commitment is demonstrated by a volunteer, the department encourages and supports additional formal training including:
• Wildland fire training: S-190/S-130, a 36 hour course that provides the first level ‘red card’ certification, and many more courses offered by the county and state.• Fire Fighter Academy: (4 month structure fire fighting course)• Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification courses.
Once volunteers have shown some level of commitment and knowledge by consistently attending trainings, they are outfitted by the department with personal protective equipment (PPE) and a radio monitor that alerts them as needed. PPE includes wildland fire NOMEX pants and shirt, helmet, goggles, as well as complete bunker gear and boots. A fire shelter will be issued when the member completes the first certification (red card) level of wildland fire training. Members are responsible for purchasing their own wildland fire boots and gloves, but discounts are available at some local vendors. Medically trained personnel are issued emergency medical gear to carry with them in their own vehicles including trauma and oxygen kits.
Most of our active members carry either radio-monitors or digital pagers that are activated by the 911 emergency dispatch center in Boulder. When they ‘tone’ our department, the monitors beep, and a radio broadcast follows with the information pertinent to the call. Digital pagers can either beep or vibrate, and receive the same information as a text message. The trucks have radios to communicate back to the dispatch center, and a limited number of hand held radios are also in use by the department.
No one can say that fire suppression and responding to emergencies are without risks. However, our number one concern is SAFETY. Some one else’s emergency is not necessarily YOUR emergency. That is a big reason behind our frequent training sessions and why we encourage all our members to take advantage of as many outside training opportunities as possible. We never want to enter a scene unless it is safe to do so – whether it’s a traffic accident, a structure fire, a flood, or a wildland fire. We are mostly ordinary folks without any special ‘heroism’ gene.
Nearly 70% of our calls involve some kind of medical response. Many of our calls are for accidents in Boulder canyon. This could be a climbing accident on the “Dome” climbing area, a bee sting on the bike path, or a roll-over car accident with people trapped and injured in a vehicle in Boulder creek. There are certain seasonalities to the type of calls too. The winter gives rise to more heating system fires and vehicle accidents on icy roads, while hot dry summers send us chasing numerous reports of smoke. We also assist nearby departments on a mutual aid basis. We answer an average of 80 to 100 calls per year, and around 15 of those are life-threatening emergencies or serious fires.
Being a volunteer may not be for everybody. After all, not everyone thinks that getting called out of bed at 3 am, putting on bunker gear and going out into the snowy night is their idea of a good spare time activity. But most who do are rewarded with the feeling that they are part of a community that values the safety and well being of the people and forests that share our canyon. Volunteering with Fourmile is an opportunity to respond to the needs of fellow human beings, perhaps making a difference in someone’s life. It is also a good way to get to know your neighbors, and to act locally to make the world a better place to live. Oh yes, and it is also a chance to drive a big red fire truck.