BY PETER JONES
Less than two weeks after the independent Littleton Fire Protection District declared its plans to merge with South Metro Fire Rescue, the Highlands Ranch Metro District made a similar announcement last week. The two intend to sever ties with the City of Littleton as a result.
Both Highlands Ranch, an unincorporated planned community in Douglas County, and LFPD, a “virtual fire-protection agency” serving west Centennial and other areas outside Littleton, have been contracting for decades with Littleton’s fire department to provide service in their jurisdictions. The cost-cutting move allowed the two entities to operate without “fire departments” of their own.
If the two deals become finalized—both are effective Jan. 1, 2019—SMFR would become the second-largest fire-protection agency in Colorado, second only to Denver, and Littleton Fire Rescue, that city’s fire department, would revert to only serving its city limits, unless the city merges its fire department with SMFR as well. [See related story.]
Like LFPD, the board of directors for Highlands Ranch’s governing body says the move will improve fire-protection services in the unincorporated non-city of 96,000 residents.
“We owe it to Highlands Ranch residents to continue to provide the best available fire and emergency services,” said Jim Worley, the metro district’s board chairman. “We believe inclusion in [SMFR] will provide a higher level of service than we are currently receiving. [SMFR] has indicated they will be able to employ the current Littleton paramedics and firefighters who are familiar with this community.”
Like LFPD, Highlands Ranch would have a say on the new joint board that would be created if a complete merger became finalized by a vote of the community’s residents in May 2018. If voters were to reject an actual merger, Highlands Ranch would continue to contract with SMFR anyway, much as it has since 1990 with the City of Littleton.
LFPD has contracted with the city since 1948.
Earlier this year, the Littleton City Council voted to cut costs by contracting its dispatch services through the larger agency.
SMFR, which similarly merged with Parker’s fire department a decade ago, is the south suburbs’ largest consolidated fire district. It already provides service to such areas as Greenwood Village, Lone Tree, Castle Pines and an eastern section of barbell-shaped Centennial.
Cunningham Fire Protection District was also recently absorbed into SMFR.
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