Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, along with Rep. Scott Tipton, introduced legislation Tuesday to convey about 4 acres of U.S. Forest Service land to Dolores County for the location of a new fire station along the West Fork of the Dolores River.
The new station will serve homes in the West Fork area and the Dunton Resort that have never had nearby fire service. The station will be located adjacent to the Dolores County equipment yard at Fish Creek and will be the headquarters of the newly formed West Fork Volunteer Fire Department.
The department was formed to reduce the risk of fire in the area. The fire service will also give homeowners better access to insurance.
In addition, building a fire station would decrease response times to emergency calls, reduce the financial burden on the region’s other emergency responders, and provide a staging area to respond to wildfires.
“This bipartisan legislation – drafted in consultation with Dolores County and the Forest Service – is a win for homeowners and emergency responders in the West Fork,” said Bennet, a Colorado Democrat. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to quickly advance this bill so the West Fork community has access to essential safety and readiness services, just as other Coloradans do across the state.”
Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said the legislation has broad support at both the federal and local level.
“Municipal firehouses are an important part of many communities across Colorado,” Gardner said. “The West Fork fire station can be built on land at no cost to the taxpayer, provide a staging area for Forest Service personnel during wildland fire events in the area and also serve the community with more swift response times for decades to come.”
Tipton, R-Cortez, said because the West Fork community is on the edge of the San Juan National Forest, it is more vulnerable to wildfires.
“Frequent and devastating wildfires have ravaged Western states, making it more vital than ever to ensure that every community is prepared for similar catastrophes,” Tipton said. “I am proud to introduce legislation that will not only help to protect this national forest, but will also ensure the protection of private property and most importantly human lives.”
Longtime West Fork resident Tommy Johnson has been named chief of the new West Fork Volunteer Fire Department. He recently graduated from the Montezuma County Fire Academy.
“It’s a real honor, and we are very grateful of the support we have had,” Johnson said. “There is an obvious need for emergency services up here.”
In August, Dunton Hot Springs owners Christoph and Katrin Henkel donated $100,000 to the West Fork fire department to help finance their main station next to the county yard. The resort is also building a separate firehouse just down river of Dunton Hot Springs where a brush truck will be stationed, said executive vice president Edoardo Rossi.
Dunton is 35 miles from the Dolores Fire Station, and 40 miles from the Rico Fire Station, along Colorado Highway 145.
Johnson said the fire department will serve about 86 homes in the Dolores County area of the canyon, including the Dunton Resort. It will rely on volunteers who will go through rescue and fire training. Water sources include the West Dolores River and local ponds.
For more information, visit the West Fork Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page, or email organizers at westforkvfd@gmail