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Report: Colorado fire departments lacking funding, equipment, firefighters

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control found that fire departments would need to spend $40.7 million over the next two years to meet equipment needs.

COLORADO, USA — Colorado fire departments are lacking a significant amount of equipment and funding, according to a recent assessment.

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) just put out their biennial report outlining the needs of the state's fire service.

The report finds that 68% of fire departments in the state don't anticipate having adequate funding to implement necessary improvement to their facilities. Fire departments report needing to replace or purchase more than 800 apparatus over the next two years. The cost of the equipment fire departments need would be more than $40.7 million, according to the assessment.

"It's not so much a new thing. Fire departments have always struggled to have all the equipment that they need," said Lisa Pine, the professional qualifications and training section chief with the DFPC. 

"It's very expensive to outfit a firefighter in gear to have the apparatus, it's very specialized equipment that they need. So, it's not unheard of that they have these funding challenges. But recently, they seem to be getting worse," Pine said.

Pine said the lack of equipment is a real safety concern for firefighters, but because they are so dedicated to their job, they will work with what they have. 

"They're putting themselves in harm's way to protect their community," Pine said. "And they will do it with whatever gear that they have."

Pine said often times, firefighters have to share equipment because there isn't enough.

"It does limit the number of folks that can be actually working on a scene if they have to share the equipment," Pine said. "It's up to us as the community, as the people that support them, to really look into why they don't have the funding and see if we can't find ways to help them."

Pine said most fire departments are funded through property taxes, but when there's a shift in property taxes, that can impact how many resources they can purchase. She said volunteer departments are often funded through community events like pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners.

Another challenge fire departments in Colorado face is a lack of firefighters. The assessment found that the state needs 1,085 career firefighters, and 1,327 volunteer firefighters over the next two years. The fire commission has a recruitment and retention subcommittee that's looking into ways to address the shortage.

Pine said firefighting is a career that's open to anyone. She said many volunteer departments are looking for volunteers right now.

"Many of them will have signs up and will encourage you to call and come by and see what it's all about," Pine said.

Pine hoped that after reading the report, more people will understand more about the dangerous work that firefighters are doing with limited funding.

"The fire service is not overflowing with funding, and there's a lot more they can do if they had a little bit more support," Pine said. "It's money used for very a important cause."

The assessment was conducted from March 2022 through September 2022, and includes career departments, volunteer departments and combinations of the two. 

The state said more than 70% of fire departments in the state participated, which is about 239 out of 340 departments.



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