At the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, Chief Gary Tillotson and his firefighters are used to being busy.
This year their call volume is up around six percent, and lately emergency calls to Hanging Lake haven’t helped.
“It’s man power intensive,” Tillotson said.
At about a mile long, Hanging Lake trail is a steep, rocky path cutting through the walls of Glenwood Canyon past mountain streams up to Hanging Lake.
It’s an attraction that brings more than 100,000 people a year and several emergency calls to Glenwood Springs firefighters.
“I think a lot of people don’t know what they’re getting in for,” Tillotson said.
When the fire department gets called to the trail, it often means sending three or four firefighters – which may not sound like much — but is about half the firefighters on duty on any given day."
Last year, the department was called to Hanging Lake 16 times for injured hikers
This year it’s been six, and for each emergency, firefighters are gone for hours.
“It takes an hour and a half to hike up and back down. And if you have to transport a patient, that can add another hour or two,” Tillotson said.
Chief Tillotson knows Hanging Lake calls will never stop, but he’s hoping a fee to hike the trail may help reduce the number of people getting hurt by staffing a ranger on the trail who can help hikers.
“I believe that rangers on site can add a lot of education to the public before they head up that trail,” Tillotson said.