Grand Valley Fire Protection District © 2017 Links
After an early morning structure fire on Pioneer Court during the month of January 1962, 20 citizens of Parachute and the surrounding area decided that it was past time to form a local Fire Department.
So on February 13th, 1962, the second Tuesday of the month, the Grand Valley Fire Department was formed. The following year the Grand Valley Fire Protection District was formed. Ernest J. “Ernie” Rousseau was elected as the First Fire Chief. Since that time there have been eleven other volunteers that have stepped up to serve as Fire Chief.
In October of 1996, the Board of Directors hired David A. Blair on a part-time basis to be its first Firefighter/Paramedic. April 1997, Blair was promoted to District Fire Chief and September 2005 was appointed the combined District and Department Fire Chief.
In the early days fire responses were few, with most of the calls for help being medical transports. The Fire Department members and equipment were stored in the back of the old Blue Town Hall building.
The Fire District purchased its first engine from the City of Montebello, California, a 1948 Mack. This truck is still in service, but only responds to special events now.
Since those early days, the Fire District has grown to three fire stations and several apparatus and other specialized pieces of equipment. The original Fire Department had 20 charter members and has grown to its current 40 member roster. There have been a total of 381 persons which have served on the Fire Department at one time or another.
The level of service has also grown of the past 50 years. In the beginning, members were first aid & CPR trained and had neighboring agencies come and teach basic fire response skills. As time passed, members became advanced first aid qualified and trained in wildland fire responses as well as structural response. In 1979, the Fire Department brought on its first female firefighter, Linda Waite. Waite’s addition also increased the medical response to the community to including out-of-hospital emergent nursing care.
During the 80’s the Fire District went through the ups and downs of the Exxon and UNOCAL Oil Shale projects. The Fire District reaped some of the benefits of having new industry come to the community and after the close of the Colony Project, dealt with the aftermath of re-evaluations, assessments and abatements.
All the while the Fire District increased in call volume and the need for more volunteers.
The Fire District benefited from the oil shale boom by getting the fire station in Parachute built through an Oil Shale Trust Fund Grant. It would later share the Battlement Mesa Emergency Services station with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Exxon Security Services. After the close of Colony Plant, Exxon would later sell the Battlement Mesa Emergency Services building to the Fire District.
During this same time, the membership increased to 30 and the level of EMS care increased to EMT Intermediate. It was also during this time that the members became engaged with structured wildfire training and certification.
In April of 1983 the Fire District receive full funding for the Parachute Town fire station. Dillon & Hunt were chosen to be the architects and in August 1983 the new Parachute Fire Station was started. This station was completely remodeled and staffed 24/7 in 2013. This station provides primary coverage to the residents in Parachute, Colorado.
During the 90’s, oil shale had shut down and natural gas hadn’t started in earnest. The Rulison Fire Station was constructed in 2001to serve the middle area between the Rifle and Parachute/Battlement Mesa fire stations.
With the decrease in available member resources during the day time periods, membership limits were increased to 40, which is still the current limit. It was during the mid 90’s that EMS care was increased to Paramedic level. 2004 was the first year the Fire District went to full time Firefighter/Medic daytime staffing.
The following year the Fire District hired a third employee and went to one full time Firefighter/Medic per 24 hour period, 7 days per week. The plan was that there would be enough volunteers to fill the partner position. This plan did not work out as well as thought possible, so the Fire District hired 3 additional Firefighter/Medics the following year in order to have one full crew available 24/7. This schedule worked well as long as no one got sick, went to training or was on vacation.
In 2007, the Fire District was able to hire a third person for each shift. This allowed for critical training, vacations, sick time, etc and ensured the community that there would be a first response crew for EMS and initial attack and size up for fire responses.
The Grand Valley Fire Protection Districts Board of Directors in 2008, with critical input from Chief Blair, prepared for the future needs and growth of both the Battlement Mesa community and Town of Parachute. The architectural firm of Johnson Carter was hired to design a new station to be located on Battlement Mesa. The facility currently has the District administrative offices, living quarters for the crews, 10 apparatus bays, fire and EMS operations support areas and offices, a full workout facility and a separate training room facilities with a full kitchen that is available for use by non-profit organizations.
As the Natural Gas industry development took off and locations were getting higher into the back country, the Fire District hired 3 additional Firefighter/Medics to bring the per day shift to 4. This allowed for 2 full crew responses on shifts when all were present or a full and partial response, backed up by volunteers when needed. Additional equipment was purchased to address the high risk areas and the many values at risk that are contained with the District boundaries.
Today the current roster has a Full-time staff of 16 personnel, the Part-time staff of 24 personnel and the Volunteer staff of 8 personnel.
We are very fortunate to have a Board of Directors, Fire Chief and highly trained staff who are passionate about this district, our department and the community we serve. Today’s staff is just as dedicated to serving the Grand Valley Fire Protection District as those that started this great Fire District, and all those that served from the start until now.