In 1959, area residents formed the Woodmen Valley Volunteer Fire Department (WVVFD). The department was equipped with two Colorado Forest Service brush trucks—a Jeep with a 50-gallon tank and a 10gpm pump and a weapons carrier with a 400-gallon tank but no pump. The fire station was a 24 foot by 48 foot, two-bay concrete garage with a flat roof. Later, the 400-gallon tank on the weapons carrier was replaced with a 200-gallon tank, a 50gpm pump and 6 “Indian Pump” hand-operated backpack units.
In 1969, the Sisters of St. Francis purchased a 1949 Chevy 500gpm pumper from the Broadmoor Volunteer Fire Department. They leased the truck to WVVFD for $1 per year with the stipulation that our department provide them with fire coverage. The new truck was housed in one bay and the Forest Service trucks were squeezed into the other bay.
In 1972, the fire station building was expanded upward to provide a training classroom. This room doubled as the kindergarten classroom for the old Woodmen-Roberts Elementary School next door.
As the years moved on, the Forest Service trucks wore out. In 1979, they were replaced with a new GMC mini pumper. Emergency One (Engine 1625) carries 250 gallons of water and pumps up to 250gpm. That same year, a 1250-gallon milk tanker was donated to the department. Our firefighters extensively rebuilt this truck replacing the original chassis with a 1971 GMC chassis. By 1986, the forty-year-old Chevy pumper was retired and was replaced with a 1974 Lockwood 750gpm pumper. The tanker was parked outside because of a lack of space. During the winter, it could not be used. In 1987, a third bay was added to the station, and the tanker was moved inside for year round use.
The firefighting equipment remained the same until 1998 when our firefighters again rebuilt the tanker. WVVFD purchased a replacement chassis from a 1980 Ford airport fuel tanker from Arizona and painted it to match the other trucks. The water tank from the old chassis was moved to the new one, and the tanker (Engine 1600) was put back in service. That same year, a department uniform patch was redesigned to give our firefighters a better sense of identity and to represent changes in the services provided by the department. This new logo now clearly identifies all the department vehicles. It replaces the old volunteer logo which represented the support of the Modern Woodmen of America.
In late 1998, the fire department signed an automatic mutual aid agreement with the other fire departments in the “North Group” of El Paso County. The agreement assured that, in the event of a major fire in the district, our department would automatically get assistance from Donald Wescott, Black Forest, Woodmoor/Monument, Tri-Lakes and Palmer Lake fire departments. Later, WVVFD signed a similar agreement with the Air Force Academy Fire Department. In return for their aid, the Woodmen Valley Volunteer Fire Department provided similar assistance to those fire departments. These joint calls also gave our firefighters valuable experience.
Without a legally recognized fire district, many homeowners suffered from skyrocketing homeowner’s insurance rates. The Insurance Services Offices (ISO), which rates fire departments, would not recognize our fire department. In May 2000, voters overwhelmingly approved the formation of the Woodmen Valley Fire Protection District (WVFPD). Immediately after the district election, WVFPD went on an extensive campaign to replace outdated equipment. In June 2000, the fire district purchased a new American LaFrance Freightliner Class-A pumper to replace the outdated 1974 pumper. Engine 1600 pumps 1250gpm and gives firefighters all the capabilities to respond to large structure fires. The fire department updated and documented testing, training and response procedures. In the summer of 2001, the department was tested, for the first time, by ISO.
The ISO examiners liked what they saw. In January 2002, the WVFPD was awarded an ISO rating of 4.0—one of the best ratings for a volunteer fire department in all of Colorado! The insurance companies recognized the new rating, and most residents reported dramatic decreases in their homeowner’s rates. The department’s medical response capabilities improved substantially too. By December 2004, eight of the fourteen firefighters on the department were state-certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), and many were are also IV certified.
WVFPD’s efforts and improvements did not go unnoticed. The City of Colorado Springs regularly asked our team to assist them when they were short-handed, and two of our former firefighters are now full-time employees in their fire department. Another of our firefighters is a professional for Manitou Springs Fire.
Unfortunately, Chief Pleshek and the Board were finding it harder and harder to recruit new firefighters. By 2006, all of the firefighters lived outside of the neighborhoods and many lived as far was ten miles away. Response times were getting longer as firefighters had to drive several miles from their own homes, to the fire station to get a truck, to the incident location. Many life-threatening events require attention in minutes. The change in staffing was extending response times to 20 minutes or more.
In 2008, the Board of Directors and Chiefs approached Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) about a new way to meet the needs of the neighborhoods. After many discussions, CSFD agreed to provide all fire and medical services for the District in exchange for a percentage of its revenues. The proposal was presented to the neighborhood at a public meeting in August 2008. It was met with overwhelming approval.
Starting January 1, 2009, this agreement was put into place. CSFD now provides all fire and emergency medical services for the District in exchange for 80% of its revenues. WVFPD keeps the remaining 20% for its remaining operations including elections, legal and accounting services, insurance and building maintenance.
The District has begun selling the trucks and equipment, but will keep the fire station for the foreseeable future. If, in the unlikely event, the new relationship with CSFD doesn't work, it would be nearly impossible to obtain property for a replacement station. Our firefighters have all found positions in other local departments and continue to serve the Pikes Peak area.
Chief Pleshek and the Board of Directors still meet regularly to review CSFD's performance and handle financial and governmental operations. All meetings are public and residents of the District are encouraged to attend.
Let's give a big round of thanks and applause to the many, many dedicated volunteers, over the past 50 years, of Woodmen Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Woodmen Valley Fire Protection District!