Even more ready to roll

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel—The Grand Junction Fire Department has improved its average response time by more than four minutes since 2011, in part because of additional training for dispatchers and a change in the way the 911 center dispatches personnel, the fire chief says. Above, firefighter Justin Dillon sits in a truck at Fire Station No. 1, ready to roll.

Grand Junction’s Fire Department is handling more calls than last year, doing it with fewer dollars, and at a quicker clip, according to recently released 2013 statistics from the agency.

The fire department is operating with a slightly reduced budget than the year before, $14.8 million in 2013 compared to $14.9 million in 2012. However, the fire department operated with even fewer dollars in 2011 with a budget of $13.4 million.

Fire department crews averaged response times of 8.07 minutes in 2013 compared to 9.21 minutes the previous year. In 2011, response times were an average of 10.85 minutes per call.

The department responded to 12,747 calls in 2013, compared to 12,265 calls in 2012. In 2011, the department logged 12,453 calls.

The improvement in response times is in part because of additional training for dispatchers and a change in the way the 911 center dispatches calls, according to Grand Junction Fire Department Chief Ken Watkins.

“Before dispatchers were questioning callers before we were called out,” Watkins said. “Now we’re actually rolling before they finish their questions.”

Grand Junction Fire Department also conducts emergency and ambulance services, arson investigations and operations with the bomb squad.

Last year, crews completed 14,563 training hours. Fire staff conducted the most training last year with 10,514 hours. Training also included 1,882 hours for emergency medical services and 1,120 for hazardous materials crews.

The numbers are fairly consistent with previous years, Watkins said.

The department is placing a renewed emphasis on specialized training in light of several major emergency incidents in recent years. Last year, firefighters and emergency medical services crews handled one of the most potentially dangerous scenarios in Grand Junction’s history on March 19 when a medium-sized natural gas line was severed on North Seventh Street, exploded and burned down two homes. Eight people who lived in the two homes were directly affected, three of whom sustained burns. Hundreds of others were evacuated in the nearby area.

In response to the incident, Grand Junction Fire Department headed an in-depth examination of the incident and officials have used the feedback to better prepare for future emergencies.

Other developments in 2013 included crews converting a former Mass Casualty Vehicle into an Incident Support Vehicle to help with fire investigations. The vehicle can be used to provide lighting to illuminate fire scenes at night and will be used for extended emergency scenes.

The wildland team was dispatched to seven wildfires across the state in 2013, and responded to flooding emergencies on the Front Range.

Last year, department officials and other parties joined to form a Pear Park and EMS Steering Committee to investigate options to locate a fire station in Pear Park. The area straddling Clifton and Grand Junction has a dense population base, yet is considered one of the farthest from stations.

In addition, firefighter Ryan Jordan received the department’s medal of honor and was recognized by the American Red Cross for saving a hunter who had fallen through the ice on the Colorado River.

Administrative assistant Jennifer Langevin was selected as the department’s employee of the year.

Last year in September, the department celebrated the completed renovation of its administration building at Sixth Street and Pitkin Avenue. Station 2, the department’s busiest station, at 2827 Patterson Road, was remodeled to accommodate additional staff and another ambulance.


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