It's been a challenging summer for Lower Valley Fire District as call volume reaches an all-time high, budgets are cut and no additional staff members are added.
LVFD Chief Frank Cavaliere said call volume is up nearly 30 percent since last year. He said a dry summer and slow economy took a large toll on activity.
"A lot more people have less insurance so they call 911 more to try to get care at home, as compared to going to the ER or doctor's office," Cavaliere said.
LVFD operates as a special taxing district and receives income through taxes, which are based on assessed valuations of property and businesses.
"As the economy went down and home values are less, we get less taxes," Cavliere said.
The funding cuts don't bode well with the $.5 million LVFD has in uncollected ambulance charges. Cavaliere said insurance does not cover the full amount of ambulance charges, so LVFD loses money off ambulance calls.
"It's a losing battling but it's a service that we've committed to provide to our citizens," he said.
Three-quarters of the LVFD staff are volunteers, many of whom work full-time jobs during the day and volunteer at the station during the night.
"It takes a toll on you as a person trying to do each call to your best every day," said firefighter Travis Holder. "With the short staff during the day, the citizens are the ones that take the brunt of that because it makes us hurry up and do our job a little faster."
LVFD serves more than 15,000 people in Fruita and surrounding areas. The department will be applying for a Department of Local Affairs grant this year to try to secure funding for a new fire station-- something Cavaliere said will extinguish several of the problems the station currently is facing.
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