Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. “Don’t touch my tatas,” the patient told a Timberline Fire Protection District EMT when he responded to a medical call.
A firefighter never knows what he or she is going to find when arriving at a medical call, but they are well-trained to handle the situation professionally; with respect, empathy and skilled efficiency. Sometimes the situation is easily handled, sometimes there is nothing they can do.
In this past year, TFPD had nine firefighters graduate from their EMT program, certifying them as trained medical first responders, an accomplishment which will save lives as their emergency medical calls increase.
On Saturday afternoon, members of the TFPD were honored by the High Country Auxiliary for their work in the past year at the annual TFPD Awards Dinner, which was hosted by the Gilpin County Recreation Center. It was a time for the volunteers to get together with each other in a more leisurely fashion without the sense of urgency that usually prevails when they gather with fire hoses, chain saws or gurneys.
Timberline’s new chief, Paul Onds, who was recently appointed to the position after chief Glenn Levy resigned, welcomed the crowd and began to thank the families of the firefighters as well as the mutual aid received from neighboring districts and departments.
He also praised the work of the HC Auxiliary, which did an awesome job of raising money to support the district, of feeding firefighters in large events and purchasing the gear that keeps firefighters safe. Chiefs from neighboring fire departments were recognized as well as retired firefighters who are always considered part of the general TFPD family.
Assistant chief Chip Smith then threw out some figures. The district responded to 544 calls in 2015 and they closed 2016 with 750 calls, 300 of them EMS calls.
Smith said, “A 911 call doesn’t respect holidays, family meals, birthdays or any special occasions. Firefighters are expected to show up 24/7, 365 days a year. There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”
Members of the business community were thanked for their support of the district. Smith gave a shout out to Kysar’s Auto, B & F Mountain Market and the Last Shot for their generosity and support.
It is not just the fire calls, the accidents, the search and rescues that keep firefighters working in the community; there are also the unseen hours. Smith says that 16,882 hours are spent on with four to six responders preparing the equipment for the next call.
If these hours had been paid, the district would have put out $438,000; and that doesn’t include travel time, studying or paperwork involved with a call. As an example, Smith mentioned Scott Matthews, who personally drove 984 miles to and from a call, donating $482 in the past year for time and gas.
In 2016, seven stations had a makeover, mostly exterior staining. Station 1 had a complete remodel, with landscaping and a new sign and red doors.
The firefighters were impressive candy hander-outers at the Gilpin School Halloween fun night. They attended the Gilpin High School Homecoming bonfire, the Fourth of July parades in Gilpin and in Nederland, the Gilpin Veteran’s Memorial, the High Country Flea Market, the Chili Dinner, the county fair, the High Country Auxiliary pancake breakfast and Safety Day.
EMT’s encounter strange and often tragic incidents. There was the “Don’t touch my tatas” case, in which the patient had consumed too many ‘green’ gummy bears and thought the EMT’s were aliens, and another day, two children who were injured in an ATV accident.
“And there are the suicides, the CPR attempts that have no results, a few ‘frequent flyers’, chimney fires and animal rescues.”
Probably the largest call was a mutual aid request from Nederland Fire Protection District when the Cold Springs Fire blew up and raged towards Ridge Road subdivisions. Ten TFPD firefighters were sent to Nederland and when the possibility of the fire jumping the canyon and heading into the TFPD district near Station 4 arose, firefighters put up a Magnolia Road defense.
Smith announced that the district had received $155,000 in grants and came in 10 percent under budget, thanks to the efforts of administrator Jennifer Hinderman.
Response time for a call was one minute, 41 seconds and 7 minutes, 41 seconds to the scene of the call.
“We are all very proud of our relationships with neighboring chiefs,” said Smith. “We are all one community.”
Besides graduating nine EMT’s, 31 red cards for wild land training were earned: three of those cards were to firefighters over 60 years old. Eight volunteers earned FF1 cards and eight volunteers earned FF2 cards.
In honor of retiring chief Glenn Levy, Smith said the district had a debt of gratitude to Levy, that he made it fun to be a firefighter and had led them to where they are today.
Smith said the district had humble beginnings, that in 2016, it had shown what it is capable of. “You can always trust and take pride in that fact that when a need arises, the TFPD will respond. And we will never touch your tatas.”
The awards were handed out, some of which had been specifically prepared by chief Levy before he left. The first award was presented to Dave Taylor for being diligent, a stickler for the rules. He earned the 2017 Safety Award.
The Chief’s Award went to Galen Koepke for spending up to three days a week making sure everything was up to snuff at the station. Erik Douglass won the Leadership Award, which demands the highest responsibility.
HCA president Diane Rittenhouse told the firefighters that any support that was given to them was just payback for all they did and said theirs was a synergistic relationship. She handed out the gifts for the most responses of the year: Chip Smith, who likes to be in bed by 7 p.m., had 360; Dave Taylor had 292; Chris Schimanskey had 232 and Jim Crawford had 210.
The Most Training Hours went to Chris Schimanskey with 460; Keith Enne with 182 and Tommy Dexter with 180. The Lieutenants of the Year were Dave Taylor and Erik Skeen; The Firefighter of the Year, a response machine, was Jim Crawford.
Another year finished, another one just beginning and another summer coming up. As most people consider their garden, or their vacation, or maybe fishing, the TFPD prepares and trains to be ready for whatever the wildfire season brings in.