GHAVFD Chief Kevin Zagorda at Fire Station 1 in Glen Haven, CO.

What is your history with Glen Haven?

I’m from upstate New York, and I knew that I wanted to move west when I retired. I’d been to Ouray several times, but my wife was hesitant to move somewhere so remote. I’d heard about Estes Park, and we took a long weekend out to have a look. We loved it! We bought a house during our trip. That was three weeks before the flood. We were still in NY and hadn’t yet moved in. I didn’t know how the cabin had fared, so I reached out to the fire department. Their response was amazing. They offered to hike out to check on the cabin for me. I had the realtor send them a copy of the key, and the guys made the trek out, shut off the water/gas, and took pictures. That’s how I first knew I wanted to be a part of the GHAVFD team.

How long have you held the position of Chief?

It’s been two and a half years now.

What was your position before retirement?

My background is in nuclear power plant operations. I worked for a defense contractor that designed the nuclear reactors for the Navy submarines, and we also trained sailors on how to operate them.  At one point, I was responsible for Emergency Response at a site with 4 operating reactors, and we had our own Fire Department that reported to me.  Most of our focus was on responding to nuclear events, but many of the principles apply to structural firefighting as well.

How many volunteers do you currently have on staff?

We currently have sixteen active firefighters, three reservists, and three trainees. Trainees are those who are in their first year in the department. Reservists are typically more experienced. They can be called upon if extra help is needed on a call. Active firefighters are the core of the department. These guys have attended training and show up for calls.

I understand that we have two fire stations in Glen Haven. Can you walk me through the differences?

The main station is on CR 43 in Glen Haven. At this location, we have four bays and house most of our vehicles and equipment. We conduct all of our training at this location, as well. Station 2 is a 2-bay garage in The Retreat. We rent a truck from the state of CO, a 1968 Kaiser and a mini-pumper that are both maintained at that location. The mini-pumper is a small version of a firetruck. It can get up some of the long, narrow driveways we have up here. We park the big truck on the road and pump water up to the mini-pumper.

We are beginning the construction of a third bay at station 2 as part of an Eagle Scout project. It’s pretty exciting. Matthew Argo is an Eagle Scout from Aurora whose grandmother owns a house in The Retreat. He raised $20,000 as part of a project to construct a third bay. He’s a remarkable young man.

Sounds like it! That’s very exciting. I understand that Station 1’s building is also relatively new. Can you talk me through what happened to the previous location?

This building (station 1) was a new construction at the time of the flood. Our then-Chief (Jason Gdovicak) made the call to move all equipment from the original Station 1 to this new building - it turned out to be a great call. The other building promptly washed away with the flood.

Wildfire Preparedness Day is quickly approaching (mid-August this year). Can you describe the event to me?

The event is generally divided into three parts:

1. Education. Participants attend a workshop and leave with a wildfire checklist. In addition to the workshop, we will demonstrate the Glen Haven Fire Behavior Model that was prepared for us by the son of a local homeowner who models fire risk professionally. It gives us the capability to look at critical wildfire parameters, such as flame height and rate of spread, down to the individual property level.  We used this model to prepare the Community Wildfire Preparation Plan (CWPP) that is posted on our new webpage ghavfd.org

2. Mitigation. Volunteers work along roadsides ‘limbing’ trees and cutting down trees as directed.

3. Recreation. This portion was supposed to be a potluck and kids’ activities. We will likely make adjustments this year due to pandemic concerns. (For more information, please check out the website: www.ghavfd.org)

What happened at last year’s Wildfire Preparedness Day?

Last year we did not have a Wildfire Day. Larimer County suggested Team Rubicon work a project in Glen Haven instead. So, Team Rubicon from the National Disaster Response Group came and helped us to establish a fuel reduction zone at the end of North Fork Road and Fisherman’s Lane in The Retreat. This entailed thinning trees, limbing trees, and cutting down some smaller trees like junipers that are highly flammable. The limbs are piled up to be burned next winter.

We are pursuing Firewise Certification. A community risk assessment was issued in 2007. As part of that effort, we did mitigation on key roads to improve access during a potential fire. We have met all of the targets and submitted our application which should be approved by the time this article is published. Larimer County contacted me about sending one of their fire crews to Glen Haven to perform some of the mitigation work outlined in our CWPP later this summer.  We are working out the details, but this will be a tremendous help.

We recommend that residents go to firewise.org to more information on defensible space around the home. If people would like an inspection, they can contact me at chief@ghavfd.org.

What happens when a call comes in for help?

When we get a call, volunteers radio in to dispatch that they are en route. We have mutual aid agreements with Estes Valley and Loveland. This means that they automatically send resources for structural fires.

Do you have a story you can share with readers about a recent incident that holds a lesson for us?

Yes. In September of 2018, we had a structure fire in The Retreat across from my property. By the time the fire department arrived, it was fully involved. Shortly after our arrival, the floor collapsed. A wood stove had been on the main floor and, when the floor collapsed, the stove dropped into the crawlspace. The crawlspace doors blew open and embers flew thirty feet in the air out of the house and started numerous spot fires in the woods. The team had to turn our attention away from the structure fire to wildfire prevention. Once the spot fires were taken care of, we turned our attention back to the house fire.

The take-away from this story is that we often think of ‘defensible space’ as preventing wildfire from catching our houses on fire, but in this case, it was reversed. Defensible space also protects the forest from house fires. If it’d been windy or if there was increased danger rating, that fire could easily have gotten out of control. We were very fortunate.

The structure fire in the Retreat from September 2018.
Charred remains of the structure fire in the Retreat from September 2018.