Retired Yampa fire chief never far away | SteamboatToday.com

Retired Yampa fire chief never far away

Austin Colbert

Phippsburg resident Dan Allen stepped away from his role as chief of the Yampa Fire Protection District at the first of the year, a position he's held for 13 years. He's been a volunteer firefighter in South Routt for more than 20 years.

— After more than two decades, it came down to French toast and pancakes.

When 2016 rolled around, Dan Allen, who spent 22 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Yampa Fire Protection District and the last 13 as its chief, decided to pass the torch.

"We do an annual pancake supper New Year's Eve. When we got done flipping pancakes and making French toast, that was it for me," Allen said. "It was hard to walk away; there is no doubt about it. But, it's a time commitment. You are either all in, or you are out. You can't do it halfway."

A lifelong Routt County resident who currently calls Phippsburg home, Allen, 52, now spends a lot of his free time working in his garage, where he is rebuilding his grandmother's 1950 Chevy and his father-in-law's 1949 Chevy. He still works as an emergency medical technician for Twentymile Mine and part-time as an EMT and firefighter for the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

But, his role as the Yampa fire chief now belongs to his son-in-law, Machia "Ky" Cox, who also works at the mine. Allen is never far away, however, a fact Cox is grateful for.

"It makes it easy, following in his footsteps, and also still having him there when I need some wisdom," said Cox, 37. "He believed in me. Of course, he is still there for me, and I still call him all the time with questions. Him being close by, he said he's still there for all this stuff. He has a real good knowledge of the community."

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The fire and EMT world has long been a family affair for Allen. At one point, he had both of his children and his wife all in the department at the same time. His daughter, Tara, Cox's wife, is currently the captain of the emergency medical services division in Yampa.

A 100 percent volunteer effort, the Yampa Fire Protection District covers the majority of South Routt — 388 square miles — and has stations in both Yampa and Phippsburg. More than a dozen volunteers — the majority trained firefighters — keep the small-budget operation at the ready in case the worst should happen.

It's a major time commitment, especially for the chief, but, it's also an important and necessary role, one Allen believes is in good hands.

"I'd like to think I taught him a lot, and he's the right man for the job. When you hand it over like that, it makes it a lot easier," Allen said of Cox. "You just hand it off and walk away. You regret it every day, but at the same time, the new guys are coming on. It's a great bunch of people. They are more than capable of taking it where I left off, and I look for great things to happen."

Cox, who first moved to Yampa from Tennessee with his family in 1994, joined the Yampa fire department right out of high school, his father and brother also having been part of the department in the past. It's as much in his blood as it is Allen's, and he shares the same passion and desire to be there for the South Routt communities.

"It's always been a service that has meant a lot to us throughout the years," Cox said. "Most of it's just the brotherhood, the camaraderie, of being there for people when they need it … to have a department that the people of the community can count on in their troubled times."

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert