East Grand Fire celebrates 50 years serving county
District plans summer open house to commemorate anniversary
What started as two small steel buildings, three tankers and the commitment of quite a few volunteers became the county’s fourth fire protection district in April of 1969 when three fire departments merged together as the East Grand Fire Protection District.
Now, the district is celebrating its 50th anniversary serving Grand County by honoring its history and planning for its future in the community.
“Before 1950-something, there weren’t any fire trucks as far as I can figure out, so either things just burned down or, if it was close enough to the railroad, they could stretch a hose from one of the railroad engines since they have a pump,” said East Grand Fire Chief Todd Holzwarth. “Then we went from three departments (…) and we started operating more as a district and ever since then, we’ve kept doing that.”
East Grand firefighters and their board celebrated the district’s April “birthday” at this month at its regular board meeting with a cake and speeches, but the district will also celebrate with the public this summer with an open house at the fire station in Fraser.
“We’ll talk with folks and have rides and, hopefully, we’ll get the old La France out and we’ll go over to the bank and run back through Rendezvous,” Holzwarth said.
A lot has changed for East Grand in its 50 years, including the equipment and the fire stations themselves, as well as the expansion of volunteers and full-time staff to meet the call volume demand, which Holzwarth estimates has doubled in the past 10 years.
Later this year, the district will be getting a new fire truck to replace a 16-year-old model and it will be asking the county and towns to increase impact fees.
While Holzwarth said the district is currently focused more on maintenance than expansion, preparations are being made for the future, including considerations of adding a new station in Winter Park and planning for the possibility of expanding paid staff.
“We want to actually add the south station because we have plans and a location that would finish up our master plan,” Holzwarth said. “In theory we could build that building right now, but at that point we’d have no reserves left. (…) But right now, we just don’t have any ability to repay that money.”
What hasn’t changed in East Grand’s lifetime is the consistent community support the district receives, Holzwarth said, citing previous ballot measures for a bond to improve the district and, later, to increase property taxes that both passed and allowed East Grand to grow.
Both the towns of Fraser and Winter Park also formally honored East Grand’s 50th anniversary with resolutions from the town board and town council, respectively.
“We prepared a resolution (…) to acknowledge the contributions they’ve had to our community and the role they’ve played in making Winter Park a premier community,” said Winter Park Town Manager Keith Riesberg. “In essence, honoring them on their anniversary.”
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