When we brought you the stories last week about the controversy over alcohol inside New Jersey’s Hillsdale VFD many commented that bars in firehouse is really just an issue in the Northeast portion of the country. But this story is from Yuma County, Colorado and involves the long time practice of having kegs of beer stocked inside the Wauneta Volunteer Fire Department for use by the firefighters.
In New Jersey, the fire department prevailed after a city councilman/fire commissioner expressed concerns in a public meeting about the liability of firefighters drinking. The bar remains and the councilman is gone.
In Colorado, a couple who had been involved with the department and originally purchased the kegs years ago, won the battle. With the help of a Denver TV station, Dean and Sue Jarrett were able to get the leaders of the department to back down and reverse the policy of having beer in the firehouse and allowing firefighters to drink at meetings and after calls.
Dean Jarrett, who had been a 28-year member and treasurer of WVFD, told KCNC-TV investigative reporter Brian Maass, that his position on this changed when he saw volunteers drinking during a CPR class at the firehouse. Jarrett also told Maass, “Without a doubt, people have showed up visibly impaired (at fires)”.
Sue Jarrett, who made it clear she was going to fight this over the long haul, told the reporter, “And they have taken something admirable and they’ve turned it into their own personal man cave. We’re going to do what we want. Leave us alone. And they are putting people in jeopardy.”
Despite the board voting unanimously on May 7 to remove the kegs, as in Hillsdale, New Jersey, there are a lot of people who didn’t have a big problem with beer for firefighters. Among them Fire Chief Jeff Gallegos. Here’s some of what he said to the TV station:
“I don’t have a big problem with it. If we’ve had a few beers we’re not going to jump on the truck and drive it. I don’t think we have that big an issue. People don’t feel we should be told what we can and can’t do when we’re volunteering our time.”
And the policy had support from top elected officials:
State Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who represents the area, contacted CBS4 to say he had no problem with kegs in the firehouse noting that the nearest liquor stores are in Wray, 15 miles away, making it difficult for firefighters to pick up beers after they’ve been out on a call, especially if its late at night after the liquor stores have closed.
Brophy called Jarrett and his wife “professional cranks” who had alienated the community for years.
The TV station also contacted Ron Graton, Executive Director of the Colorado State Fire Fighters Association, who seemed to stake out some middle ground on the issue:
“We feel that having alcohol in the fire station is an issue of local control. We do feel it leads to many issues that complicate the fire fighting aspect.”
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