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Public pressure forces removal of beer at Colorado firehouse. Former firefighter tells reporter 'people have showed up visibly impaired' at fires.

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Last week’s stories on controvesy over Hillsdale, NJ firehouse bar here & here

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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Comments - Add Yours

  • John Murphy

    Seriously, beer in the fire station? That should have gone out when the IAFC declared a zero alcohol policy due to the number of accidents involving fire apparatus. I guess living in Colorado at those “high” altitudes negates the effects of alcohol. It’s a stupid policy and the first time a firefighter wrecks an apparatus or kills someone, it will be the time for a policy change. Keeping my fingers crossed that death does not create a policy change. Keep me in mind when you need an expert witness to testify against the fire department on this one.

    • Anonymous

      Yea, I bet your a smart one!

  • Anonymous

    Stupid, just stupid. We wonder why our kids continue to drink and die. With examples like these we might as well hand out the beer with driver’s licenses. Be professionals and get rid of the beer while on duty. I would elect a new chief who actually cares about his members and the community they serve.

  • Anthony Conde

    You don’t have any idea what it is about and these two concerned citizens that brought this whole thing up were the ones that put the kegs in the fire hall to begin with. Do me a favor and google Sue Jarrett and see what a pain in the a@@ she is to everyone in our county. I am part of this department and am damn proud of it. Get the whole story before you judge. We do not sit around and drink all of the time like they are stating. We might have one or two after a call. Everyone knows everyone out here and I have had to roll up on my personal friends and that can be hard to deal with and we can’t take it home because it breaks HIPPA rules. We are not on duty we are volunteers who work full time jobs. I work in the oil and gas fields. So does the same guy who brought this issue up after he took his daughter on a medical call with us and she isn’t an EMT like myself. That broke the rules and after our ambulance director came out to a meeting he started this crap and trying to run our names into the mud. Thanks you and do your research before coming to a conclusion.

    • CVFD Chief2

      Mr. Conde: It shouldn’t matter who brought it up or for what reasons. It shouldn’t matter if how many beers you have or even if you choose to not have any. What should matter is safety and image. Can you absolutely guarantee that firefighters will not respond to a call after drinking a beer? If not, get rid of the beer. What is the perception the public has when they see beer in the station? If they think that all you do as volunteers is sit around and guzzle beer after every call, then you are on the losing end. The only way to convince them otherwise is to get rid of the beer.

      Several years ago, I banned beer/booze from our small, volunteer station. Lost two firefighters right then and there. Can you afford to lose volunteers whose main perk is the beer? You can!

      Want to be seen as the professional? Get rid of the beer. It’s not that big a deal.

  • Anonymous

    I’m rather stunned at the state senator’s comments. So what if the nearest liquor store is a ways away. Since when is a drink immediately following a fire a mandatory requirement? Did I miss an NFPA standard somewhere?

  • Anthony Conde

    Oh and if you need to see for yourselves what this department is all about go to the NE Colorado local Volunteer Fire and EMS Facebook page. You will find a very dedicated and professional bunch of guys. You will also find many comments of support from the community we serve.

    • CHAOS

      Kinda tough to buy into the “professional” comment when you have guys sitting around drinking beer in the station in front of a calendar showing 2012.
      Like others have mentioned, who gets on the truck when the next call comes in?? Do you have a fresh crew that comes in until the first crew sobers up?
      Bet the “comments of support from the community” dwindle off rapidly if someone with a few firehouse beers in them buonces the engine off Mom & the kids in the SUV.

  • Legeros

    Here’s my question, if everyone’s drinking beer after a fire, who boards the truck to respond to the next fire?

    Would love to hear that radio call! “Metropolis Engine 1 is out of service due to beer, please send next available unit.”

  • Tree

    It’s one thing to have a cold one after the event, be it a fire or a fundraiser, no matter the venue.

    Many vollie houses include fundraising facilities, which may include a bar (as opposed to having a bar specifically for the entertainment of the members). Kind of hard to separate the two in such cases.

    It’s another thing entirely to be drinking during training, etc, and especially during incidents.

    It appears to me that these guys crossed the line.

    And yes, I am a volunteer firefighter who well remembers “antifreeze” being passed around during those icy mid-winter fires.

  • Tommy G

    Nothing wrong with having a few pops after a call. Hell, there is nothing wrong with having a few drinks if you’re just hanging out down there. The only Caviat is that the driver shouldn’t be drinking, but based on what I’ve seen/read on this dept, that wasn’t the case.

    Some of you are posting on here like these guys are tying one on after each call & stumbling around like a bunch of drunk frat boys. News flash kids, some people have a beer or 2 because they like beer, not because they’re trying to get drunk.

    • Tommy G

      **I should clarify, when I say “based on what I’ve seen/read on this dept, that wasn’t the case”, I meant that the driver WAS NOT drinking & operating a piece of apparatus.

    • mark

      Yes, just like every accident scene (with alcohol involved) the driver only had “one or two” drinks.

      Even when their BAL is .2 or .3 or whatever.

      Yup, just one or two drinks is just fine. No problems at all.

  • FireMan

    Wow! I didn’t realize this still went on now days. I know in Maryland if you are killed in the line of duty in order for your beneficiary to be able to collect an autopsy. I the person is free of illegal drugs and alcohol the benefits will be paid.

    There are bars and peoples homes for this, a firehouse is no place for alcohol and drugs! Wake you you bunch of ass clowns! If this continues I am sure a law suit is in your future!

  • Vollie4Ever

    If you really need to argue with someone about why alcohol should not be allowed in a fire station, you are dealing with someone wielding a room temperature IQ and nothing you say will get through to them. Remember the adage about trying to teach a pig to sing?

    This behavior is simply job security for the paid folks. If you think that the community “can’t afford” them, I will assure you that with this kind of behavior they “can’t afford not to”!

    Sometimes you get what you pay for.

  • Sue Jarrett

    Hello, sorry for the delay in placing facts on the comments. I have been dealing with a dear friends death. a gentleman that cooked for the fundraiser for this new firehouse back when he lived here and supported our department.

    fact – I did buy a ‘kegerator’ at the express request of the department when I was gone to a town that actually had one for the initial community celebration for the opening and kegs were cheaper than all the canned beer. It was moved and approved by the department and they reimbursed me for it – no different than the chief buying supplies in town and turning in the receipt and getting reimbursed.
    I did not buy it and donate it or place it there at my own directive. And the one I bought has not been used for years – there are two refrigerators that have the kegs and I did not buy those or donate those. Be truthful Anthony.

  • Sue Jarrett

    fact – the medical call was responded to by the Chief (my nephew)who is an EMT, my husband who is an EMT, and my daughter who is a CNA. They were at the firehall getting ready for an EMT class when the call came – she offered to go as it was a call for a female. the Chief agreed for her to assist.
    fact – they arrived on scene with no equipment in the response truck as it had been removed and not replaced. Due to the embarrassment the Chief sent the CNA in to let the patient know there were there and would be in shortly. Then he got on radio and got equipment there and then proceed to enter and the EMT’s told the CNA to get blood pressure and pulse as the Chief is hard of hearing.
    Fact – the person responsible for removing the equipment got his … chewed and to deflect blame he told his girlfriend who was not on the call at all and had nothing to do with the call but inserted herself into the bubble to throw darts at the CNA and the issue of commandeering to deflect the blame from her latest sleeping partner.

    The Chief has failed in his duty to control that situation and many others but is more interested in throwing blame elsewhere than standing up and being a responsible adult.