Anew, $1.8 million fire station is in the works about five miles up West Sopris Creek Road, the culmination of an effort started more than a decade ago. The project is coming together thanks to myriad partners, including the Bureau of Land Management, Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District and neighboring homeowners.
Support from Rep. Scott Tipton didn’t hurt, either.
The station, which is planned with two bays to accommodate a fire vehicle and medical response vehicle, as well as a trio of one-bedroom apartments, still needs approval from Pitkin County through its location and extent review, a relatively streamlined process that is available for projects such as school buildings and fire stations.
An application to the county is expected to be submitted shortly, according to David Myler, who is representing the Sopris Mountain Ranch homeowners.
“We can now kick everything into high gear,” Myler said this week, following the BLM’s recent approval of a 2.25-acre right of way for the station.
A spokesman for Rep. Tipton’s office said the congressman and his staff have been working with “local BLM representatives and other involved parties to see that this process was resolved in a timely manner.
“Overall, (Tipton) is pleased with the Basalt & Rural Fire Protect District, state and federal parties involved to collaborate on a solution that will benefit the community of Basalt and the surrounding area,” said Matt Atwood, press secretary and digital communications director.
Myler said he’s thankful Tipton got involved.
“I think Scott touted the public purpose and benefits and encouraged the BLM to expedite the process,” Myler said.
In a ‘construction-ready state’
Fire chief Scott Thompson said the effort to build this rural station started in 2007 but was initially derailed by the economic downturn. The interest in the public-private project to improve the fire and medical response never waned, however, and Thompson said homeowners have pledged about $900,000 toward its completion; the other half of the money is expected to come from a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant, he said.
Thompson noted that the project could help lower insurance rates for West Sopris-area homeowners, due to its proximity and shortened response time, but that couldn’t be confirmed by Myler.
The fire station received an administrative grant last year that allowed for engineering, architectural work and property surveys to go ahead.
“It’s in a construction-ready state,” according to Thompson. Approval from the BLM for a 99-year lease on the right-of-way further teed up the project, which now will require Pitkin County approval.
Initially, it was thought the approximately 2.25-acre property was within the Sopris Mountain Ranch parcel, Thompson said, noting that homeowners had agreed to donate the land for the station. Further investigation unearthed that the property was BLM land.
In a prepared statement, Larry Sandoval, field manager for the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office, wrote, “The Fire District is an important partner to the BLM and U.S. Forest Service in managing wildfires, and this station’s proximity to public land will help with prompt responses to wildfires.”
Sandoval added, “The BLM strives to be a good neighbor and can authorize such uses of public land to local governments when it’s in the public’s interest.”
From old town Basalt, the response to calls up West Sopris can take as long as 25 minutes, Thompson said. That theory was tested three years ago at a house fire in the vicinity.
Last summer’s Lake Christine Fire is also never far from anyone’s memory, he suggested.
“It’s obvious that the BLM sees the advantages of stopping fires up there,” Thompson said.
Pending county approval, construction is anticipated to start later this spring or early summer on a project that Thompson noted has unrivaled views.