Oak Creek Fire Protection District firefighters, pictured Wednesday at the Oak Creek station, responded to 226 calls in 2008, which is 35 percent more than in 2007.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Oak Creek Fire Protection District firefighters, pictured Wednesday at the Oak Creek station, responded to 226 calls in 2008, which is 35 percent more than in 2007.

South Routt firefighters received record amount of calls in 2008

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By the numbers

Oak Creek Fire Protection District's annual call volumes

2001: 162

2005: 157

2002: 162

2006: 211

2003: 162

2007: 167

2004: 160

2008: 226

New construction permits by year (single-family residences)

2005:

Stagecoach - 39

Oak Creek - 8

Other - 5

2006:

Stagecoach - 61

Oak Creek - 11

Other - 3

2007:

Stagecoach - 33

Oak Creek - 8

Other - 4

2008:

Stagecoach - 11

Oak Creek - 5

Other - 4

— In its early years, the Oak Creek Fire Protection District accepted volunteers "as long as they were breathing and had a pulse," Chief Chuck Wisecup said.

But the district's fire and ambulance crews have grown and professionalized throughout the years to meet residents' increasing demand for service, which reached an all-time high of 226 calls in 2008 - a 35 percent increase compared with the previous year.

Much of the recent growth in fire and ambulance calls within the district has been fueled by residential growth, particularly in Stagecoach. In 2006, which Wisecup deemed the biggest boom year in terms of building plans, fire district officials signed off on $27 million in new construction, $19 million of which was in Stagecoach.

Single-family home construction in Stagecoach during the past four years has outpaced growth in Oak Creek by 450 percent.

The 265-square-mile Oak Creek Fire Protection District includes Oak Creek, Stagecoach, Lynx Pass, the Oak Creek canyon and surrounding areas. The fire district started 2009 by adding a fourth full-time employee, its latest staffing increase to keep up with the workload.

Training officer and Capt. Jeff Buffetti will work out of the new Stagecoach station. Although the Stagecoach station has been fully operational for emergency services since January 2007, the district hopes to complete the upstairs living quarters and additional garage bay this summer, if the budget increases as planned, Wisecup said.

The district has kept up with its growth financially after voters doubled the fire district's mill levy in 2002, Wisecup said. Although new construction is bringing more residents and creating more demand for services, the additional taxpayers, coupled with increasing assessed valuations, has made such staffing expansion possible, he said.

The four employees are joined by about 14 volunteers, who not only respond to calls, but also put in a lot of hours keeping up with training requirements. Continuing education requirements for basic EMT certification requires 72 hours of training every two years, Wisecup said.

"Even though you're a volunteer, you're still required to meet ongoing standards," EMS Operations Chief Theresa Kelliher said. "We're better because of it, but that's the biggest constraint in our business right now."

For the past several years, the district's growth was reflected in the increasing numbers of administrative work it created, including building permit reviews, road construction reviews, fire inspections, certificates of occupancy and burn permits, Wisecup said.

"Now that the growth has tapered off, we're seeing the call volume increase from the people that came along with it," Wisecup said.

Between 2007 and 2008, call volume increased 35 percent, from 167 to 226 calls for service. So far in 2009, the fire and ambulance crews have been averaging about one call a day, Wisecup said.

Medical calls in particular have grown far faster than trauma calls in recent years, Kelliher said.

South Routt County has large elderly and special needs populations. When coupled with aging baby boomers and increasing lifestyle-related health problems such as obesity and diabetes, the number of strictly medical calls in 2008 was double the number of trauma-related injuries, Wisecup said.

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