As the 403 Fire winds down, we are all very appreciative of the combined efforts of all the area fire districts and the County, Federal and State assets that were brought to bear.
Thanks to them, we once again have not lost any structures in a wildfire that had the potential to wipe out hundreds of homes. In light of that, and with the Florissant Fire & Rescue board election coming in just weeks, I think it is important for the residents of the Florissant Fire and Rescue District to take a critical look at where we were just a little over a year ago and where we are today to help guide you in your decisions about who to vote for in the election on May 2nd at the Florissant Fire House.
In early 2022, the department was in tremendous distress. The former board found it necessary to relieve the fire chief of his duties and in the ensuing firestorm, most of the volunteer board members resigned under pressure from a very small, but vocal group of residents who supported the fired chief. Things got so bad that new board appointees were serving only days and weeks before resigning under the pressure from this vitriolic group. Finally, the lone remaining board remember requested the Board of County Commissioners use our statutory authority to appoint new members to the board.
As commissioners, we launched a public and transparent process to seek applicants, interview, and ultimately appoint new board members. We found and appointed who we felt were the best of the best. During that interview process, the commissioners were very frank with the new board members that they had a big job to do. They would need to audit the books, hire a chief, help rebuild a broken department, and do so while under constant and ‘unwithering’ criticism from the same small group of agitators. Frankly, we told them – they were walking into the fire.
Those appointees agreed to take on the challenge in service to their community. Unfortunately, all of the things we warned the new board about has come to pass. The group has done everything possible to create division in the community, undermine the board (regardless of who the board members were), misrepresent the department’s capabilities and accomplishments, and even went so far as to suggest publicly that both the fire department and the sheriff’s department would not respond to emergency calls if the address belonged to a critic. Their latest tactic has been to publish in social media a false narrative that FFPD didn’t respond during the 403 Fire and put other agencies at risk.
Despite all of that, the new board, led by Starla Thompson, Amanda Sutton and Justin Snare, has endured and weathered the storm for the last year. They hired a new chief, and under that new leadership, they have tripled the number of volunteers, doubled the numbers of EMTs, upgraded equipment and training, cut average response times in half and put the financial house in order. In short, they’ve been building a department that has now successfully responded to two major wildfires, multiple structure fires and even helped save the life of a young mother and her unborn child, getting them stabilized and successfully med-evacuated to a hospital in Denver. They are kicking tail, despite the attacks and non-stop interference from this same group of residents that want nothing more than to throw the department back into chaos.
If you believe, as I do, that this board has done a great job, it is crucial for you to go, IN PERSON, to the Florissant Main Fire Station between 7-7 on May 2nd and cast a vote in support of them. Turnout is critical, as these elections often go little-noticed. If the community doesn’t support them, then the same small group of people who contributed to the destruction of the old board in the first place and the undermining of the current one, who could not set aside their animus during the 403 Fire will get control of your tax dollars and stop the progress that has been achieved by the current board. This is your fire board and your district. They need your vote and they need your support in upcoming events.
Teller County Commission Chairman