Grand Fire Protection District breaks ground on new station

Participants line up during the ground breaking ceremony for the new Grand Fire Protection District station. The pictured participants are, from left, board members Phillip Brinkmann, Alina Bell and Mike Brooks; Michael DonMoyer, president of Grand County Search and Rescue; Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control Battalion Chief Tyler Campbell; Grand Fire Assistant Chief Ron Thurston; and Grand Fire Chief Brad White.
Brad White/Courtesy Photo

As fire season grows longer and Grand Fire Protection District No. 1 in Granby receives more emergency calls, good news is literally breaking ground. Development of a new public safety center and fire station is underway near Lake Granby.

The new station will house equipment for motor vehicle accidents, structural fires, wildland fires, hazardous materials responses and water rescue responses. Currently named Bud Wilson Station, it will serve the northern area of the Grand Fire Protection District, including up U.S. Highway 34 and part of Colorado Highway 125. Both these areas were the hardest hit during the East Troublesome Fire in 2020.

“We’re really pleased we’re able to pull some partnership in on this and provide better service for the community up there,” said Brad White, Fire Chief and District Administrator of Grand Fire. “This is a great way to make sure we’ve got good resources that are nearby.”

Grand Fire selected Adolfson & Peterson Construction of Colorado to complete final design, engineering and construction work. They have already finished the initial design and engineering work.

Two partners have come together to make the station possible. The facility will be shared with Grand County Search and Rescue and the State of Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

According to Grand Fire’s website, “facility sharing is intended to enhance multi-agency coordination and share costs while enhancing public safety through faster local response.” 

The Division of Fire Prevention and Control will use the station as a base for their regional wildfire fire module staff, while Search and Rescue will use the facility as a base for their three lakes area operations. As Grand’s population increases, Search and Rescue is receiving more calls for assistance each year, so another permanent base was needed.

Firefighters from Grand Fire and the Grand Fire/ Grand Lake Fire Protection District Wildland Program get in on the ground breaking action.
Brad White/Courtesy Photo

Although the exact title of the station is tentative, it will be named in honor of former District Fire Chief Bud Wilson. Wilson was present at the station’s dedication ceremony when the location was chosen in 2016, but he has since died. Wilson was very involved in the Grand County community. He served for nearly 40 years on the Grand Fire Protection District, including 25 years as Grand Fire Chief, from 1960 to 1985.

The station is located on 5 acres of property on County Road 40, about half a mile from Highway 34. Grand Fire used results from a study by the Insurance Services Office to choose the location at County Road 40. The study measured factors such as emergency communication systems, nearby water supply and community risk reduction. The location also strategically places the station at the border of Grand Lake Fire Protection District.

“It’s halfway between our headquarters station and Grand Lake’s south station. It’s going to give good coverage to that area for response, and help that area out with insurance ratings,” White said.

Grand Fire covers 152 square miles in the greater Granby area. They currently operate two stations: their headquarters in Granby near City Market, plus their station on Red Dirt Hill. This allows them to cover everything from the north side of Lake Granby to Tabernash. Grand Lake Fire Protection District covers 105 square miles, stretching from the northern border of Lake Granby to Rocky Mountain National Park. Their Fire District currently has three stations.

“We have mutual and automatic aid agreements and great working relationships. Grand Lake (Fire District) has helped us out quite a bit in the north side of our district over the years,” White said.

Another added bonus of Bud Wilson Station is that it will offer six apartments for employee housing. Housing is an essential benefit for Grand Fire firefighters, both those who are trying to relocate to the county, or locals who can’t find an affordable place to live. Grand Fire’s two current locations also offer housing. 

“We’re one of the original employers with employee housing around,” White said. “We’re still primarily volunteers, so if … there are volunteer firefighters looking for housing, we’ve got a place for them.”

Currently, Grand Fire is staffed by 24 volunteers and resident firefighters, plus five full-time employees. As their district expands, Grand Fire is always looking for new employees dedicated to keeping their community safe. 

White said that as the Granby area gets busier, Grand Fire must keep up with the increase in emergencies, including house fires, wildfires, motor vehicle accidents or medical requests.

“There’s a lot of growth in that area of County Road 40 and a lot of rebuilds after the (East Troublesome) fire. That area has been increasing in call volumes over the last five years,” White said. “We see a lot more people recreating at the lakes and hiking here.”

White said that since COVID-19 hit in 2020, more and more visitors are traveling to the area. The mountains and pristine lakes offer visitors a way to escape crowded cities and enjoy the outdoors, but with more people comes more accidents and emergencies. On top of that, fire season coordinates with the summer high season.

“We’re in this squeeze of tourism in between Winter Park and Grand Lake,” White said. “Typically you have a different group of tourism going on in Fraser/Winter Park and Grand Lake and now they overlap here in Granby.”

The Bud Wilson Station has been a long time coming, but development got put on the back burner as Grand Fire constructed other buildings in the 2000s, including their Red Dirt Hill Station and an apartment building for employee housing.

“We first started talking about this building in 2004. Then the recession hit, so we spent the recession time looking for land,” White said. “Now things are picking up again and there’s more people up there, so it felt like now was a good time for us.”

Site work for the building is already underway, and construction is estimated to be finished by the late summer of 2023. As Grand County moves into 2023, wildfire remains a danger, but the area will continue to grow. Visitors and residents alike will always enjoy Grand County. Some will come to visit the towns or recreate at the lakes; others will stay to call the Rocky Mountains home. The new Bud Wilson Station ensures that everyone stays protected while they’re here.

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