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Why the heat's still on Colorado Springs firefighters

Long Story Short



A year ago this week, we published "Misfire," an exhaustive appraisal of the city's response to the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Our examination found the city wasn't prepared, though the fire had burned for days before it killed two people and destroyed nearly 350 homes on June 26, 2012. Firefighters were confused about who was in charge and what to do, but subdued the blaze through sheer courage and stamina.

In the past year, the city has added a new fire station to its resources. It soon will add another. But neither lies in the part of town where Waldo burned, even though firefighters have for years fallen short of meeting response times there, and even though officials have talked about the high risk of a repeat event.

It seems odd, until you realize that what firefighters consider "Zone 3" is not the city's only problem spot. In other zones, firefighters also routinely fall short of adopted standards: an eight-minute response, 90 percent of the time, for first companies; and 12 minutes, 90 percent of the time, for multi-unit responses.

Given that a smoldering fire can blow up within 10 minutes of ignition, no one would argue that every minute is precious. Colorado Springs firefighters know this. New Fire Chief Chris Riley knows this. But their resources are limited enough that even as they think about staffing a new station, Riley's looking not at hiring new people, but at siphoning them off from existing stations.

Read more in "A splash of cold water," starting here.

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