The Cortez Fire Protection District unanimously moved to purchase nine sets of new bunker gear at their monthly meeting Wednesday evening.
After discussing finances, the board agreed to pull from reserves if necessary to pay for the gear. However, the board requested a list of full inventory and equipment with expiration dates.
“Every time a full-time member gets new gear and they quit, I give it to reserve if it fits them. But that doesn’t work when I have gear that doesn’t fit someone,” said firefighter Kaylee Allmon, who is in charge of inventory for the department. “So it is not like we are buying new gear and throwing it in the trash. It is getting recycled, but it is for these guys that have been here for 15 years that have the same gear. It is rotating, it is getting there.”
The board tabled an action item to purchase wildland shelters to look for grant opportunities.
Community members came out in support of replacing old equipment after the board had to move to table the item in February’s meeting due to board procedure.
An action item must be “agendized” for a board to vote on it.
Board members requested that they be kept updated on equipment issues in the future.
In addition, the board moved to begin command staffing 24 hours a week for the next eight weeks, until a new chief is approved. This will give Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Bittle some time off.
Bittle approximated that he had been on call for 65 days since then-Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde retired.
“It is not safe,” board member Rodney Branson said. “He is like anybody else that works – he deserves time off. He has got to get his head straight. We are talking a safety factor plus a human being.”
Bittle expressed desire to keep his firefighters safe and the community safe and recommended the command staffing.
The board also received a construction update from Kyle Blackmer, of Weeminuche Construction Co., about the construction of the new firehouse.
“We have got the building dried-in minus the bay doors, but we have the membrane roof on, and all the windows are installed,” Blackmer said. “They are starting some drywall work, and things are progressing pretty well.”
The Cortez Fire Protection District board also received an update on the hiring of a new chief from previous Chief Don Eberle, who is helping with the hiring process.
Eberle has moved back to Cortez after leaving in 2010 and is working as a consultant for the board.
He critiqued some the requirements laid out in the job posting, including an associate’s degree. His concern was that it could be a degree in anything, not necessarily related to fire protection.
The fires district reported that it ran 145 calls in the last month, and that the majority were medical-related.