Lower Valley Residents Upset by Firefighter Pager Comment, Volunteer Firefighters Respond

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FRUITA, Colo (KKCO) - Some residents within the Lower Valley Fire Protection District say they're worried about the public's safety, after 11 News aired a report in which a volunteer firefighter said problems within the department were causing many volunteer responders to turn off their pagers. Now, that volunteer says she wants to set the record straight.

The issue was brought up during the public comment period of Tuesday night's Fire District Board meeting.

Several residents told the board they were upset by an April 29th 11 News report about internal issues at the department, which featured volunteer Stacy Evans saying "I know it's gotten harder and I've even heard volunteers saying they're shutting off their pagers more and more."

Those who spoke asked the board and fire chief to look into the issue and to discipline any volunteers who were turning their pagers off simply because they "weren't getting their way" at the department.

"I think it's a horrendously huge safety concern," said Pat Bittle, a concerned Loma resident who attended Tuesday night's meeting. "That's why I showed up at the meeting. I wanted to make sure that this is taken seriously."

Evans says the comment she made was and is still true -- that because volunteers feel they aren't appreciated by the board and paid staff at the department, they're turning off their pagers. But this time, she added that what she said needs a little more explanation.

"Yeah, it was taken a little bit out of context by some people," said Evans.

Evans says volunteers are required to work a certain number of shifts during the week -- but that often times in the past, volunteers would still respond to calls even when they weren't technically on duty. She says that when she told 11 News volunteers were turning off their pagers, she meant it in the sense that they were no longer willing to respond to those extra calls while they were off-duty.

"Everybody is getting well taken care of," said Evans. "We would never put our community in jeopardy. Everybody is going to be taken care of to the best of our ability."

Because the issue was raised during the public comment portion of the meeting, board members did not respond to any comments from either side and did not take an official actions on the issue.

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