In Colorado, a Denver TV station is looking closely at mutual aid agreements telling the public that the closest fire company may not respond in a life and death emergency when seconds count. KDVR-TV explains to the public the difference between automatic aid and mutual aid following an incident where a woman in the Golden Heights area of Golden called 911 saying she was trapped in the basement of her burning home.
West Metro Fire Station 6 is less than a mile away from the home. According to the TV station, firefighters from that station told West Metro not to respond to the emergency. The mutual aid agreement between the two departments requires a firefighter on the scene confirming there is a fire and the request has to be approved by a chief, a captain or lieutenant.
KDVR-TV reports Golden firefighters arrived in about eight minutes from stations 4.2 and 7.2 miles away. The woman’s husband apparently made the save before firefighters were on the scene.
Similar mutual aid agreements are in effect throughout the area. But the chief of the Cunningham Fire Department believes in automatic aid and has such agreements in place with Aurora Fire and South Metro. Here’s more from the station’s report:
“Response time is the most important thing for the citizen,” Cunningham Fire Chief Jerry Rhodes told FOX 31. “Citizens don’t care what the name is on the side when their house is on fire. They want firefighters there in a hurry.”
Chief Rhodes thinks the closest fire department should respond no matter which district it’s in. He believes the community would be better served if all the metro area fire stations with a mutual aid system switched to an “auto aid agreement,” which means the closest fire department is automatically called.
But Denver Fire, West Metro Fire, and many other large fire departments defend the mutual aid agreement saying auto aid would take resources away from their cities and from the taxpayers who pay for fire protection.
“We have to be available for our citizens, not that we would ever turn down a request for mutual aid, but we don’t want have it to where it’s just an automatic,” West Metro Chief Doug McBee explained.
Golden’s Fire Chief also stands by the mutual aid system. He would not agree to an on camera interview, but sent us a statement which states, in part:
After reviewing response times for the (Golden Heights) incident, Golden Fire Department has directed a dispatch/response change…to include West Metro in the initial call for personnel. It states, On any reported structure fire in the Golden Heights area…Golden Dispatch shall immediately notify West Metro Dispatch…and…Pleasant View (Fire) to respond immediately after toning Golden Fire.