Next Board Meeting July 10, 2024 

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Fairmount Fire / Arvada Fire Consolidation

Fairmount Fire Chief Joe Snyder

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Fire Chief Joe Snyder

Fairmount Fire Protection District (FFPD) and Arvada Fire Protection District (AFPD) have been working closely together since 2022 with the intent of improving the level of fire and emergency medical services we provide to our citizens. As a result of this collaborative working relationship and in light of the financial and organizational challenges facing the FFPD we have decided to move forward with a plan for a full merger of the two districts. Our employees and the Board of Directors for each district are in unanimous support of a plan for consolidation with the AFPD in 2025 if our district citizens approve a ballot issue this November.

Consolidation would provide many additional benefits to our district: Advanced Life Support (ALS) staffed engines; 7 ALS ambulances staffed with firefighter/paramedics; 6 wildland fire apparatus for rapid response to wildland fires; improved retention of paid firefighters; greatly enhanced Community Risk Reduction services including mental health crisis response; additional personnel in the Training Division; 50 plus firefighters on duty at all times; and enhanced technical rescue capabilities including hazardous materials and water rescue.

Please continue to visit this webpage for updated information. Thank you.

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Consolidation FAQs

Why are the agencies considering a merger? 

The main reason the Fairmount Fire Protection District asked the Arvada Fire Protection District to consider a merger is because it has become increasingly difficult to sustain a small fire department. Since Fairmount Fire does not have an adequate tax base, we are not able to provide the same level of service to the community that a larger department can, nor can we provide the competitive wages needed to retain firefighters.

For example, nationally recognized standards state that 17 firefighters are needed to respond to a fire in a single-family home. Fairmount only has seven firefighters on duty at a time. Also, Fairmount relies on volunteer firefighters to staff fire trucks, which has become increasingly difficult locally and nationally. 

In addition, Fairmount does not have paramedics on the fire apparatus and relies on a private contractor to provide ambulance services. The contracted ambulance is only on duty within our fire district for 12 hours each day resulting in delayed emergency medical response times during the remaining 12 hours.  At times, there is not even a paramedic on the private ambulance in Fairmount. 

Simply put, a small fire department can no longer meet the public safety needs of a more populated community. Following an emergency response analysis, we believe a merger would improve emergency services to both communities, enhance firefighter safety, and result in greater organizational stability.   

Is the Arvada Fire Protection District (AFPD) part of the City of Arvada? 

No. Arvada Fire is NOT a division of Arvada city government. As a “special district”, the Arvada Fire Protection District is entirely separate and independent from the City of Arvada, just like the Fairmount Fire Protection District and the Prospect Park and Recreation District are not affiliated with any city government. Arvada Fire provides all-hazards emergency response services to most (but not all) of the City of Arvada, about one-third of the City of Wheat Ridge, and other areas in unincorporated Jefferson County. 

Will Fairmount eventually become part of the City of Arvada?

No. A city cannot annex land in areas of unincorporated areas like Fairmount without the approval of the voters in those areas. The City of Arvada has also stated that they have no interest in annexing areas that are already developed, such as the community of Fairmount. The merger affords the community of Fairmount an opportunity to remain a suburban community but enjoy the benefits of an adequately staffed fire department.        

Who will decide if the agencies merge? 

Property owners within what is currently the Fairmount Fire Protection District would have to vote in favor of the merger or it could not take place. This will be a ballot issue on November 5, 2024. 

What are the service benefits of merging the two fire departments? 

Fairmount would be adequately staffed at all times with career firefighters and paramedics on duty. Instead of just seven firefighters on duty at a time, the integrated fire district would have more than 50 firefighters and many paramedics on duty at all times to respond to major emergencies, such as a cardiac arrest, structure fire, or wildfire like the Marshall Fire. 

Citizens would also receive significantly enhanced Emergency Medical Services with 24/7 Advanced Life Support (ALS) coverage provided by our own ambulances and paramedics. An ALS ambulance brings a higher level of training, equipment, and interventions to medical emergencies. Compared to our current EMS ambulance coverage — which is contracted through a private provider, at times stationed out of district, and occasionally only has Basic Life Support (BLS) capacity — this is a markedly more robust offering.

Other benefits citizens would receive through a merger include:

  • Multiple fire trucks staffed with paramedics

  • Multiple ambulances staffed with firefighter paramedics

  • Enhanced wildfire response capabilities with more brush trucks and firefighters  

  • Response from a Water Rescue Team to emergencies on water and ice

  • Response from a Hazardous Materials Response Team to hazmat emergencies

  • Improved firefighter safety with increased training opportunities and access to the Arvada Fire Training Center

  • Significantly enhanced community-based fire and injury prevention programs, which reduce call volume and keep citizens safer

  • Community-based crisis intervention for mental health and substance abuse issues through the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program

 

There is also unnecessary duplication between the two agencies. For example, an integrated agency would not need two fire chiefs, two operations chiefs, two training chiefs, or two training centers. This duplication could be eliminated to free up money to invest elsewhere in an integrated agency. The consolidation of facilities and fleet maintenance would also result in decreased costs. 

What are the workforce and retention benefits of merging the two fire departments? 

Due to Fairmount Fire’s small tax base, the department cannot provide competitive wages and benefits for our career firefighters unless we merge with another fire department. As such, the department has become a “revolving door” for new firefighters who get started here to obtain training and experience before moving on to the larger fire departments that can provide competitive wages and benefits. 

 

Small fire departments throughout the country are also experiencing a shortage of available volunteers. In 2020, there were 676,900 volunteer firefighters in the U.S. — down from 897,750 in 1984. Most people are too busy with their full-time jobs and families to meet increased training requirements and the demands needed to be a volunteer. Fairmount’s volunteer force has dwindled to just 12 personnel, a marked decrease in the past 10 years.

 

A merger would greatly improve the retention of employees and firefighters.

Are the Fairmount firefighters in favor of a merger with the Arvada Fire? 

Yes. A merger would improve firefighter safety through greater training opportunities and an adequately staffed response force. The Fairmount firefighters and our Board of Directors see the merger as the only long-term way to provide the best fire protection and Emergency Medical Services to the community. It will also be an excellent opportunity to provide citizens with programs and services that Fairmount Fire does not currently have the capacity to provide. 

Will my taxes go up?

There would be a modest increase in property taxes for property owners in Fairmount to receive the increased benefits and sustainability provided by merging. Fairmount Fire’s current base mill levy (10.908) would be increased to match Arvada Fire’s mill levy (14.813). The additional 3.91 mills would be equivalent to an additional $2.34 per month per $100,000 of actual property value. For instance, a $700,000 home in Fairmount would pay an additional $16.40 per month in taxes.

When could a merger take place?  

Assuming the ballot issue is approved by Fairmount voters in November of 2024, the merger would be effective on January 1, 2025.  

What is a mill levy? 

The mill levy is the tax rate used to calculate the tax bills of individual properties within a tax area or district. Each taxing authority determines how much revenue they require from property taxes and divides that by the total assessed value of the properties within their established boundaries, as supplied by the assessor. The resulting tax rate is multiplied by 1,000 to come up with the mill levy. 

What will happen if the merger does not occur?

Regardless of the merger, Fairmount Fire Protection District will still require an increased mill levy to be sustainable and provide adequate services to our community. This mill levy would be more expensive to taxpayers than the one proposed by the merger, while it would not include the additional services and benefits provided by the merger. To be organizationally sustainable without merging, Fairmount would need the mill levy increased by at least 5.0 mills. This is greater than the 3.91 mill increase currently proposed through the merger.

Who can I contact for more information about this? 

Please submit questions and or comments HERE.  For information from Arvada Fire, please refer to Public Information Officer Brady Johnson at 303-424-3012 or pio@arvadafireco.gov.