By Juan Lopez
Note: Trailmark deserves good fire protection. This article is not about that fact. Rather this piece is about the process.
Before Littleton Fire Chief Christopher Armstrong arrived in 2013, Littleton signed a $312,000 contract with West Metro Fire Rescue to provide fire engine and ambulance response to Trailmark. Trailmark, a part of the city of Littleton, is a housing community south of C470, off of Wadsworth. Soon after he arrived, Chief Armstrong dissolved this contract and stopped all West Metro aid responses. Instead of considering a joint fire station or agency consolidations, which would improve service and reduce cost, Chief Armstrong has burnt bridges with both the West Metro Fire Rescue (Jefferson County) and the South Metro Fire Rescue (Arapahoe and Douglas Counties). See Lopez’s article in the July 18 issue of this newsletter.
Littleton Fire Rescue is now pursuing taking over contracts for fire protection in Jefferson County neighborhoods that are currently held by West Metro. Both fire departments face equally difficult standards of coverage in Trailmark, Roxborough and the Lockheed Martin Waterton Facility. But instead of working across jurisdictional boundaries as had been previously done, Chief Armstrong cut ties.
Construction has begun to build Station 19 in Trailmark at a cost of $2.6 million. Of that, $1.7 million comes from the city of Littleton. Annual operating costs for a three-firefighter, paramedic engine (that cannot do interior firefighting or searches until a fourth firefighter arrives) will cost an overall $1.5 million. The city of Littleton will pay for $800,000 of that. This will cost Littleton taxpayers $800,000 per year to save $312,000 per year.
A far better solution would have been to expand the bridge built by former Chief John Mullin, and strategically locate a new fire station along Wadsworth with shared cost and full staffing for an engine and ambulance split between Littleton, Lockheed Martin and West Metro. This would have provided a more efficient and timely response of both fire departments’ resources to a larger community. That kind of arrangement could also have opened the door to a full fire district consolidation. The benefits of that are far reaching, especially as a long-term solution.
Littleton currently has eight fire stations compared to double the resources at South Metro and West Metro. Both of them have 17 stations. Littleton only has five ambulances and at times none of them are available because of high call volume. A consolidation with either Metro fire department would create a pool of 15 or more ambulances to share.
In May, 2016 both South Metro and West Metro were directed by their boards to evaluate the feasibility of consolidating. Littleton remains an island, and is not a part of those discussions.
If you are concerned, please email the seven members of City Council. Their email addresses are at littletongov.org.