Brief History of the Log Hill Volunteer Fire Department

by Jack Rairden

Introduction

This history account for the years from 1976 to 1993 is based upon records and minutes of the Log Hill Volunteer Fire Dept. (LHVFD) and the Log Hill Mesa Fire Protection District (LHMFPD), from news sources from that period, and from personal discussions and interviews with people that were active in community affairs during that period.  I joined the LHVFD in June, 1991.

For the years from 1993 to 1999, I was a member of the Board of Directors (BOD) for the District and served as Secretary/Treasurer of the Board from 1994 to 1999.  Therefore, my information is primarily from my personal records and recollections during that period.

From 2000 to the present, I have remained an active member of the LHVFD.  My information during this period is primarily from Dept. meetings and news releases and other published records.

If there are additions, corrections or alternate interpretations of the history of the Dept. and/or District, we would be happy to post them on this Website.

The Story

The LHVFD on Log Hill Mesa (LHM) had its embryonic beginnings in April, 1976.  A group of 20+ interested neighbors met to lay the foundation to form a non-profit corporation.  Attendees taking leadership roles included: Wayne & Nellie Flowers, Jim & Shirley Johnnie, Gordon & Jeanne Logan, Hank & Bea Frenze, Fred Satariano, John & Marianne Pearson, Bob & Nancy Brown, Archie Yelek, and Lowell & Ruth Stanford.

Gordon Logan (Fig. 1) was elected Acting Fire Chief and chaired the early meetings.  Committee leaders included: Hank and Bea Frenze, Bob and Nancy Brown, Jimmy Johnnie, Fred Satariano and Archie Yelek. Of critical significance was the Frenze’s lease to the Fire Department of one acre of their property on CR#22 at the request of Gordon Logan and John Pearson.  The lease was at the rate of $1.00/year for ten years at which time it would be deeded to the planned Log Hill Mesa Fire Protection District.

The Directors of the Corporation were elected in June, 1976, as follows:  Robert Brown, President; Gordon Logan, Vice-President; Nancy Wilson, Secretary; and, Wayne Flowers, Kay Norman, Henry Frenze, Lowell Stanford, Members.

Since the Corporation would have no taxing authority, the money to operate the Corporation would have to come from donations and fund-raising events.  The members of the Women’s Auxiliary and the Fortuna Tierra Club made vital contributions to the successful fund-raising activities of this new organization.

This was an effort truly starting from scratch. The county roads were little more than two ruts with grass growing between them.  There was no water except for springs or wells and a few stock ponds - domestic water was mostly hauled from Colona.  There was no telephone service communication was made by CB radios.  No attempt was made to keep County Road #1 open from north to south after the snow started to fly. Log Hill Village was still being platted. 

The first LHVFD fire truck was a tanker on loan from the Forest Service (and under the direction of the County Sheriff) as shown in Fig. 2; it was on-hand in July, 1976.  By that time the Fire House was under construction at the CR#22 site. (Figs. 3 and 4)  The site was surveyed by Hank Frenze and Ken Peterson - they laid out the site for the firehouse, leveled it, put down a gravel base and prepared the forms for the cement floor.  Most of the construction work was a volunteer effort by the members of the community - the primary construction people in addition to Hank were: Gordon Logan, Jimmy Johnnie, Fred Satariano, John Pearson and Lowell Stanford.  The truck was moved to the fire house in October, 1976.

In December, 1976, the tax-exempt number was received from the Dept. of Revenue and the Corporation papers were approved and registered. $3,666.91 had been received from donations and fund-raising events. Equipment such as hoses, bunker gear, helmets, CB radios, pagers, tools, etc., were being begged, borrowed and, occasionally, bought. The Montrose Fire Dept. (MFD) was a major contributor to the LHVFD efforts and it remains so to this day!  The Ridgway Fire Dept. (RFD) has been a valuable mutual aid partner since 1976!

 

Fig. 3: Firehouse #1, west end, under construction. 1976 Fig 4: Firehouse #1, east end under construction. 1976

 

From the get-go, the firehouse also was to be the Community Center - it was used extensively for that purpose through the mid-1980s.  Work continued on the fire house construction in preparation for its dedication in August, 1977.

Finishing work on the upstairs meeting room and kitchen continued well into the early 1980s.  Fund-raisers by the Ladies Auxiliary (Figs. 5 and 6) were vital to this effort!

 

Fig. 5:  Picnic in the firehouse. 1976 Fig. 6: Ruth Stanford and Shirley Johnnie serving food. 1976

 

In August, 1977, a used Dodge ambulance was obtained from Ouray County.  There was thought that this vehicle might be converted into a fire truck.  In February, 1978, Fred Satariano made arrangements to obtain a 1953 Dodge army weapons carrier donated to the LHVFD by the Delta Vo-Tech School (it had been used there to train student mechanics).  The old ambulance then was used as a source of spare parts.  A 200-gallon water tank, donated by the Ridgway VFD was mounted on the weapons carrier along with a pump and hose.  By July, 1979, it was in operation as the "fast recovery" truck. (Fig. 7)

The Board of Directors approved the purchase of a 1960 FWD pumper from the Montrose Fire District in June, 1978. (Fig. 8) The $6,000 cost was to be financed contingent upon the formation of the Log Hill Mesa Fire Protection District (LHMFPD) and, thence, the availability of tax revenues.

 

Fig. 7: Fast recovery truck. 1979 Fig. 8: 1960 FWD pumper.

 

In June, 1979, Gordon Logan resigned as Fire Chief; Fred Sartariano (Fig. 9) was elected to be his replacement.  Gordon Logan was elected as Chairman of the Board of Directors.  In November, 1979, confirmation was received that the Fire District was approved by the State Office of Local Government.

Housing construction in Log Hill Village (LHV) was underway by the late 1970s.  Bob Draper, the managing partner in the ownership group Western Community Planners, recognized the need for fire protection in this newly formed, growing community.  He tapped George Nelson (Fig. 10) to lead the effort to construct Fire House #2. George and his wife had recently bought the sixth house in LHV - he joined Mr. Draper in contacting the LHVFD and they reached an agreement with them to be included in the LHVFD.  Beginning in September, 1980, George led the fundraising effort, organized the volunteer building crew and oversaw the construction of the firehouse.  The construction proceeded rapidly so that a truck could be station there; but it was late 1985 by the time it was totally completed. (Fig. 11)

 

Fig. 9:  Asst. Chief Jimmy Johnnie and
Chief Fred Satariano
Fig. 10: George Nelson. 2004 Fig. 11: Recent photo of FH #4. ca. 2005

 

A GMC pumper truck was purchased from Carbondale in April, 1984, for $650 (the purchase had been approved two years before, but funding was lacking).  The truck was on-hand by July, 1984, but needed work and saw only very limited service.

In July, 1985, $800 was authorized to buy used hard hats and bunker gear from the Rangley Fire Dept.  These were stored at the firehouses and were used sparingly.

Used pagers were obtained through the years - in 1986, the pagers were recrystalled so that the Colo. State Patrol Dispatch could be used; thereby, replacing the old paging system.>

The Pension Plan was transferred to FPPA effective the first of 1987 - funds were transferred from the money market account.  LHVFD firefighters are awarded a very modest pension after 10 or more years of active service and after age 55.  The State Law was amended in 1997 to allow fire depts. to permit retired firefighters to remain on the active roster, but with no increase in pension benefits - currently there are six such individuals.

Maintaining a membership of volunteer firefighters has always been a challenge.  Younger people are often faced with a multitude of career and family responsibilities and have limited time.  Older people are often retired and have the time, but are physically limited for the rigors of being a fully participating firefighter.  As the population of LHM has grown, there have been more younger people that are willing to make the commitment of time and energy to be completely trained firefighters.

By early 1988, Tri-County Water had extended lines to the northern end of LHM.  A fire hydrant was purchased by the fire department for $1,600 and installed at FH#1.  A 1959 FWD (Fig. 12) was purchased from the Montrose FD and training on the newly acquired truck was begun in July, 1988.  Radios were installed in two trucks at a cost of $1,020 in July, 1988.  A new fire hydrant was installed on Old CR# 1 near the Klinger property in Sept., 1989.

From 1990 to 1992, Dave Austen, Fire Chief of the Montrose Fire Dept. served as Training Officer for the LHVFD for a very modest stipend.  Montrose was a much smaller, laid back city in those days.

A ‘72 Ford brush truck (Fig. 13) was purchased in Pennsylvania in January, 1990.  In May, 1990, the old ‘53 Dodge army truck was sold to Arrowhead for $1,004.  A fire hydrant was purchased and installed at the CR# 1/CR# 22 intersections in November 1990.  A replacement water tank was fabricated and installed in the Ford in Sept. 1991. Two hand-held radios and one truck radio were approved for purchase in Sept. 1992.  The La France pumper truck (Fig. 14) was purchased from Trenton, NJ, FD in Oct. 1992.

A very controversial decision was made by the BOD to return the Forest Service tanker in Dec. 1992, because CSFS was going to require a $200 per year "maintenance fee" for it.

The transfer of title of the FH# 1 acre from the Frenzes' to the Fire District was finalized in late 1993.

 

Fig. 12: 1959 FWD Pumper

 

Fig. 13: 1972 Ford brush truck

 

Fig. 14: La France pumper truck Fig. 15: International tanker truck

 

In 1995, the International tanker truck (Fig. 15) was purchased from Alpine Apparatus for $21,000 less $2,000 trade-in for the ‘59 FWD.  This truck carried 1125 gal. of water and served as a replacement for the Forest Service truck.

A one-ton '84 GMC pick-up truck (Fig. 16) was purchased in early 1996, for $5,200 (including utility boxes valued at $700 donated by Ray Miles, Montrose). This truck was converted into a fast response/brush truck. (Fig. 17)  About $2,000 was spent to equip and paint the truck.  The outfitting of this truck was completed using a tank/pump unit on loan from BLM. An up-graded tank/pump unit was obtained on loan from BLM in 2000.

 

Fig. 16: GMC farm truck Fig. 17: GMC fast response/brush truck

 

From the establishment of the LHMFPD in 1979, the District operated on "bare-bones" budgets.  There had been a significant opposition to the formation of a Fire District in the first place and there was a community consensus that FD budgets should be lean to minimize the impact of taxes on the residents.

Budgeting for the District was further complicated in 1992 with the passage of the Taxpayer Bill of Right (TABOR) by a vote of the taxpayers of Colorado.  This often is referred to as the "Bruce Amendment" because David Bruce was the leader of this effort.

TABOR limited the amount that taxes could be increased each year by a cost-of living formula which resulted in the tax mill levy for the LHMFPD to decrease from '94 to '98 as is shown in Fig. 18.  In Nov. 1998, the BOD submitted a ballot issue to the voters to "De Bruce" the District - it was passed by an overwhelming majority.  Therefore, the mill levy was stabilized at 1.548.

In 1998, the BOD filed the necessary papers to obtain IRS tax status 501(c3) for the district which, among other things, authorizes purchases to be free of state sales tax. The tax-number was issued in Jan. 1999.

 

Frank Starr had replaced Don Dunham as Fire Chief in 1994 when Dunham retired from the Dept.  Chief Starr sent a letter to residents of the District requesting cash donations to supplement our very modest tax income.  About $5,000 was donated along with an additional $5,000 donation by Fairway Pines management.

In subsequent years, Fairway Pines management donated the use of the golf course for Dept. fund raisers.  BOD member Alan Stapleton ran Marathon Golf Tournaments for the years 1995 - 1997 which resulted in ~$10,000 income for those years.

In 1998, a group of Fairway Pines residents led by Virgil Watters and Susan Watson suggested to the BOD that they would like to run a "rea" golf tournament to benefit the FD.  Golf tournaments have been held most years from 1998 to the present.  They have resulted in increasingly large incomes for the Dept. - recent incomes have been in the +$40,000 range.

Frank Starr resigned as Fire Chief in Dec. 1998 - he was succeeded by Bill Bennett in Jan. 1999.  Bennett had been Asst. Chief and Training Officer during 1998.  He also was Chairman of the Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) for the BOD from 1996 - 1999.

In Aug. 1998, the LRPC recommended that 1st priority should be given to expanding FH #2 by two bays to accommodate a much needed tanker/pumper for the south mesa area.  Second priority was to construct a new FH #3 at mid-mesa on the donated 3/4-acre lot that Bennett had negotiated with Henry and Lucy Woodruff. (Fig. 19)  The addition of two bays to FH #1 was third priority.

Also, a high priority was given to obtaining vitally needed personal protective gear and equipment for the safety of the firefighters.

Chief Bennett and the BOD undertook an ambitious effort to dramatically transform the LHVFD from an under-staffed, under-equipped and under-trained rural FD to an organization which could meet the safety needs of a rapidly growing community.  One of his first decisions was to increase training from one three-hour session per month to two such sessions per month with a strong emphasis on “hands-on” exercises.  He also spent many hours, even weeks, in contacting fire departments within a several hundred mile radius to obtain their surplus gear and equipment at low cost or no cost.

To implement the top priority recommendation of the LRPC of adding two bays to FH #2, architectural plans were drawn up and donated by Larry Kumpost - the plans included a meeting room above the bays along with several other amenities such a bathroom and a shower. Tom Jones agreed to oversee the construction of the addition.  Ron Ringo supervised the excavation at the north end of FH #2 which demonstrated that no blasting would be required for the addition.

A 1985 Chevrolet brush truck was obtained on loan from the Colo. State Forest Service by the Ouray County Sheriff's Office in Oct. 1999 and assigned to the LHVFD.  This is a Diesel-powered pick-up truck with a slide-in tank/pump unit.

Two obstacles to the proposed addition developed towards the end of 1999:  1. The approval of a larger leased area by land owner Ronn Mayer would be required; 2. Approval of the nearby homeowners would be required - an opposition group developed rapidly.

Bennett also began exploring for opportunities to obtain grants from a variety of agencies to augment the District income. He found that these agencies responded to his inquiries with a point-of-view that if our District didn't do more to tax ourselves, it was unlikely that grants would be forthcoming. 

A new planning committee chaired by BOD member Ed Hansen was formed to consider going to the voters for a tax increase and to reassess the priority list for how additional funds would be allocated.  The new priorities established were: 1. International tender/pumper to be moved to FH #2; 2. New firehouse to be constructed at FH #1 site and a new tender/pumper to be purchased and located at FH #1; 3. A two-bay addition to be constructed at FH #2; 4. A new FH #3 to be constructed; 5. New trucks and equipment would be obtained in the period of 2005 to 2009.

After a concerted effort by Bennett and others, a tax increase to 3.980 mills was overwhelmingly approved in all areas of the District.  This set the stage for expanding the capability of the Dept. to provide fire protection for the District.

The make-up of the BOD changed dramatically from 2000 to 2001.  I resigned in Jan. 2000 and was replaced by John Nelson.  Ron Ringo and Alan Stapleton chose not to run for reelection in May 2000 - they were replaced by Tim Ahearn and Fred McKnight.  A few months later Steve Wolff resigned and was replaced by Bill Fugazzi.  The next year Ed Hansen resigned and was replaced by Carol Ashley.

Chief Bennett was finding his duties to be increasingly burdensome.  He recruited Greg Stith, a retired New Jersey State Patrol officer, to join the Dept.  In a short time, Stith completed his probationary requirements and was elected to be Asst. Chief in 1999.  His major duties included working with Bennett to establish design specifications for a new pumper/tanker and for the new building at the FH #1 site.

Bennett and Stith were very actively assisting residents across Horsefly Canyon along Government Springs Road to establish the prospective Horsefly Fire Dept. (HFD).   With the arrival of the Boardman pumper, the LHVFD donated the 1960 FWD pumper to the HFD.

In Nov. 2000, a Boardman pumper (Fig. 21) was donated to the LHVFD by benefactor Rob Dixon through the efforts of BOD member Fred McKnight.  This truck had been obtained from the South Metro Fire District near Denver.

The tax mill levy increase approved by the voters in 2000 made possible the purchase of the District’s first new truck.  In June 2001, delivery was taken on the new custom designed General Safety pumper/tanker truck.  This is a Diesel-powered vehicle that carries 1,500 gallons of water and is suitable for response to structural fires, wild fires and wild land interface fires.  It is shown in Fig. 22 along with some of the attendees at the event described below. 

 

Fig.21: Boardman pumper Fig. 22: General pumper/tanker and attendees

 

Also in June 2001, a nearly new Ford/Mertz brush truck (Fig. 23) was purchased with funds donated by resident Ms. Victoria Hearst at the behest of Fred McKnight.  This Diesel powered vehicle carries 400 gallons of water and is highly versatile for the fire fighting requirements of the LHVFD.

Ms. Hearst was presented with a modest thank you award at an informal ceremony held at FH #1 in July 2001. (Fig. 24)

Fig. 23: Ford/Mertz brush truck Fig. 24: L to R - Greg Stith, Carol Ashley, Victoria Hearst,
John Nelson, Bill Bennett.

 

 

The year 2001 also marked the completion of the new three-bay metal building at the FH #1 site. (Fig. 25)  This structure was part of the promise made to voters when they approved the mill levy increase in 2000 to provide housing for the planned acquisition of new trucks.

The design and construction of the building was supervised by Asst. Chief Greg Stith.

 

Bill Bennett and Greg Stith resigned their officer positions in 2002. Larry Leeper (Fig. 26) of Ouray replaced Bennett as Chief in 2002 where he served for a little over a year.

Shortly after resigning, Greg Stith was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident.  He was honored for his service in 2003 by an inscribed memorial plaque that was presented to his wife Irene. (Fig. 27)  The inscribed plaque memorial that she is holding now is mounted on the dash board of the General pumper/tanker.

Fig. 26: Chief Leeper. 2003   Fig. 27: Irene Stith with the
Greg Stith memorial plaque

 

In 2003, John Rogers (Figs. 28 and 29) was appointed Fire Chief.  Chief Rogers is a career firefighter with the Montrose Fire Dept. - he recently was promoted to Captain. His challenge has been to bring organization and discipline to a Fire Dept. that was growing rapidly in the acquisition of facilities and equipment used to protect an expanding population and property valuations.

 

Fig. 28: Water shuttle training -
Chief Rogers & John Boughner. 2008
Fig. 29: Structural fire training -
Asst. Chief Tom Austin (center) and
Chief Rogers (right). 2007
Fig. 30: Fred McKnight (left) being
interviewed by Ridgway Sun reporter
Rob Magley (right).  Steve Furstenfeld (rear). 2005

 

Since 2002, BOD Chairman Fred McKnight (Fig. 30) has led the effort to fully modernize the LHVFD. While he gives frequent credit to his fellow BOD members, Dept. officers and other firefighters, many of the accomplishments are almost solely attributable to McKnight's tireless efforts in obtaining state of the art firefighting vehicles (Figs. 31 to 34) and personal protective gear such as SCBAs and turn-out clothing.  This has involved, in addition to District mill levies, obtaining support through fund-raisers, grants and donations.

 

Fig. 31: International pumper/tanker - particularly valuable for fighting wild-land/urban interface fires.  Stationed at FH #2. Fig. 32: 1,000 gal. water tank mounted on an old 6x6 military truck chassis.  This tanker is particularly valuable for delivering water to hard-to-reach wild-land fires - a latter-day Mellow Yellow.  Stationed at FH #1.
Fig. 33: Pumper stationed at FH #2.  This vehicle is particularly valuable for fighting fires where water hydrants are readily available such as in Log Hill Village and Divide Ranch and Club. Fig. 34: This 3,000 gal. tanker is one of two nearly identical trucks in the Dept.  One is stationed at FH #1 and the other at FH #2.  These vehicles provide extra-ordinary water delivery capability.

 

A major challenge for the Fire District has been to construct a facility at the south end of LHM capable of housing the firefighting equipment needed to provide safety for the residents there. The unsuccessful attempt in 1999 to add two bays to FH #2 has already been discussed.

After obtaining the new General pumper/tanker and constructing the new building at FH #1, the next priority item was to expand FH #2.  For almost unfathomable reasons, this task met one obstacle after another.  Finally, in May 2008, the new Safety Center (Fig. 35) was completed and a celebratory barbeque dinner was held for the firefighters and to thank the many people in the community that helped make this effort happen. (Figs. 36 to 38)  The exterior dedication plaque is shown in Fig. 39.

 

Fig. 35: The new facility Fig. 36: The dinner and presentations. Fig. 37: More presentations.
Fig. 38: Fred and Jacque McKnight share in satisfaction of
a successfully completed project.
Fig. 39: The exterior dedication plaque.

 

The definitive history of the path from concept to finish for the new FH #2 project should be recorded by Fred McKnight and his associates.  In the meantime, following is an outline of my understanding of the major steps and milestones:

1. Land was needed for the new building.  The most logical location would be an expansion of the then leased area on which the existing FH #2 was located which was included in Log Hill Village Lot #1A.  This is a 60 acre parcel that was dedicated to "Government Services" in the original plat for the development.  This land was owned by Ronn Mayer who was reluctant to lease a larger lot to the Fire District.  McKnight finally made a deal with him wherein the total Lot #1A was deeded to the LHMFPD.

2. McKnight conceived the idea of subdividing two 5-acre lots on Lot #1A to be sold to help finance the new building.  However, the covenants for LHV required 100% authorization from the residents - this proved to be a non-starter!  He then went to State Representative Ray Rose and State Senator Jim Isgar for help in enacting legislation that a majority vote of the homeowners would be sufficient.  Many weeks of procedural maneuvering with the County BOD and the homeowners finally resulted in vote of the residents authorizing the sale of the lots.  A little over one million dollars was received from this sale.

3. Many more weeks were spent on the design of the new building and on identifying an acceptable location that passed muster with the residents

4. A ground-breaking ceremony (Fig. 40) for the new building was held in late Sept. 2007. It was financed with the proceeds from the lot sales, a grant from DOLA and a donation from Divide Ranch and Club.  Construction continued through the winter and spring of 2007 - 08.  (Figs. 41 to 43)

 

Fig. 40: L to R - John Rogers, Fred McKnight, John Boughner, Janet Prichard, Carol Ashley, Bill Fugazzi Fig. 41: The foundation is poured. Early Dec. 2007
Fig. 42: Steel erected. Late Dec. 2007. Fig. 43: Building enclosed, Feb. 2008.

 

During the past several years, the old firehouse at Station #1 has been upgraded with a new metal roof, new siding and a new sign as shown in Fig. 44.  This effort was supervised by John Nelson with the authorization of the BOD.

The memorial plaques were relocated between the overhead doors.

Firefighter Appreciation Dinners have been held in the fall for the past several years.  Group photos of the firefighters have been taken at three of the dinners.  Figs. 45 - 47.

 

Fig. 45: LHVFD personnel. 2003
Fig. 46: LHVFD personnel. 2004
Fig. 47: LHVFD personnel. 2007

 

As of early 2010, the LHVFD is exceptionally well equipped with firefighting apparatus and personal protective gear for the firefighters.  Fig. 47 is a catalog of the departments trucks.  The most recent addition is ladder truck designated Truck 32 as shown in Fig. 48.

Assistant Fire Chief Tom Austin resigned his position as of Jan. 31, 2010, after over five years of outstanding service in that position.  He will continue as  a department firefighter.  Tom was honored at a luncheon after fire training for his many years of dedicated service (Fig.49).

Tom Austin is the newly appointed Assistant Fire Chief of the LHVFD.  Tom Austin was reappointed Assistant Fire Chief in mid-2010.

  Fig. 47: Published by Marian Austin. Jan. 2010

 

Fig. 48: Truck 32 Fig. 49: Fire Chief John Rogers presents Tom Austin with a plaque in recognition of his outstanding service to the dept.

 

 

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