Fire district board approves new volunteer/reserve program policy

Several revisions lead to overall comfort level

By Mark Reaman

After months of discussion, last week the Crested Butte Fire Protection District (CPFPD) board of directors unanimously approved a new volunteer/reserve program policy. The direction is intended to make sure those volunteering or participating in the reserve program are trained to a competent level to participate with the full-time paid staff on regular shifts and on major incidents.

CPFPD CEO Sean Caffrey said in 2017 local voters passed a 3.5 mill levy increase intended to improve district firefighting and EMS staffing levels and move the CBFPD from a primarily volunteer organization to a combination department with a full-time core of responders supported by volunteers. He said that transition is essentially complete as the district now has 18 responders split across three shifts 24/7 that are immediately available to respond to emergencies from our stations.

“In addition to the response staff, we have two full-time chief officers, 1.6 administrative staff and 3.5 fire prevention personnel,” Caffrey said. “This transition to full-time staff has reduced our response times from 20 minutes-plus to 10 minutes or less in most cases. Of those 18 responders, 12 of them or two-thirds, were previously volunteers.”

On top of the paid staff, Caffrey said there are currently 32 members who are classified as “reserve members,” either volunteer or paid part-time. Nine are considered volunteers and they can stay volunteer members as long as they would like. Correspondingly, the volunteers can ask to become part-time members at any time and a number of them have done so over the past few years.

“The main issue we have been wrestling with is what is an appropriate cap on members,” he said. 

He said the new CBFPD station, which is slated to be constructed on Gothic Road near the Crested Butte Cemetery north of CB, will take the district from six bedrooms in two stations to 12 bedrooms in three stations. “I expect at that time we may increase our reserve numbers from 30 to maybe 40 or 45,” he said. “We are also interested in hiring one or two dedicated training staff as funding allows. In the meantime, we are not actively recruiting, but are always taking applications.”

CBFPD board member Tina Kempin said she spoke up during the recent development process to keep the volunteer culture going at the district, and she was generally pleased with the version of the policy that was approved.

“The Volunteer and Reserve Manual that was ultimately approved this month was the product of several revisions,” she explained. “The first draft of the manual that was presented to the Board in November of 2023 would have required volunteers to convert to the part-time paid side of the program once they obtain 10 years of activity status (pension eligibility). In the recently approved version of the Volunteer and Reserve Program Manual, this is no longer the case, and volunteers can continue their service indefinitely. Also, in the approved version, there is an allowance for entry into the volunteer program, which was not the case in earlier draft versions of the document. Fundamentally, these two changes in support of CBFPD volunteers get me comfortable with the version of the Manual that was ultimately adopted.”  

Caffrey emphasized that the North Valley district is fortunate in its current situation. “Having a reserve force of 32 members on top of our full-time paid core is pretty healthy for a community of our size. One of our investments is making sure all of our reservists are well-trained, keep their credentials current, and work enough shifts to make sure they integrate well with our full-time team,” Caffrey concluded. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure the public receives excellent service regardless of the paid or volunteer status of our members and by and large, you will not be able to tell them apart.”  

Check Also

State and local entities working to open shorter local detours after Highway 50 bridge closure

State and local entities working to open shorter local detours after Highway 50 bridge closure …