Foothills Fire Protection District (FFPD) includes a portion of Bear Creek Canyon on the south and extends to Clear Creek on its northern border. Its rolling hills and rugged mountains range in elevation from 6,400 feet on the east end and along Clear Creek to over 8,000 feet on the mountains that dot the district’s west end. The district extends from Highway 26 at the Morrison Junction of I-70 (milepost 259) west past El Rancho to approximately milepost 251 on I-70. These eight miles of I-70 are some of the most dangerous in the state, particularly during adverse weather conditions. The district is also responsible for Colorado Highway 74 and Bear Creek Canyon, from the town of Morrison west nearly to the town of Kittridge.
The district includes areas formerly in the Idledale, Lookout Mountain and Mount Vernon fire protection districts. The FFPD encompasses a total area of 25.2 square miles. A sizable percentage of this area is non-tax generating public space.
The district protects 8 miles of I-70 from milepost 259 to milepost 251. The district also protects the east face of Lookout Mountain from the Lariat Trail to the “M.” This includes access to the Beaver Brook Trail and the steep forested lands on the south side of Clear Creek. Major tourist attractions within the district include the Mother Cabrini Shrine, Red Rocks Park, Buffalo Bill’s Grave, the buffalo pens, and elk herd enclosures along I-70 near exit 254. Various residential developments, some dating back to the cabin era of development, and other more modern city-like subdivisions, require residential fire protection and emergency medical coverage. The district has very little commercial real estate as it is primarily residential in character. However, most Denver television and radio stations have their antennae and transmitting equipment either on Lookout Mountain or Mount Morrison, both of which are within the district.
The district is divided by numerous canyons, many of which are heavily forested with steep walls creating major fire hazards during the dry season. Mountain winds occasionally fan wildland fires which could endanger numerous residences. The area along the entire northern border drops into the Clear Creek area and wildfires within it can only be fought on foot and by air. Much of the rugged area is legally outside the district’s boundaries, but is not covered by other agencies, and presents a major threat that must be included in Foothills Fire Protection District planning. Any sizable wildland fire threatening the district will be difficult to control, particularly if fire danger and winds are high. Significant fires could result in property loss before any kind of an effective stand could be made.
Traffic: An interstate highway, a twisting and turning deep canyon highway and a mix of bicycles, cars, hikers, truckers, skiers and gamblers passing through the area cause numerous vehicle and pedestrian accidents. Winter weather can cause treacherous conditions. I-70’s 6 percent grade followed by a dead man’s curve at the bottom results in numerous incidents, some which are quite serious. Recent improvements on I-70 have contributed to increased trucking. In addition, the advent of limited stakes gaming in the towns of Black Hawk and Central City has increased traffic related to gaming. Trucks move at speeds of 10 to 35 miles per hour on the steep grades. They mix with gaming and ski traffic moving at rates of 55 to 90 miles per hour, resulting in an increase in incidents on I-70 each year. Plans for construction of a new road linking I-70 traffic directly to Black Hawk will further increase gaming related traffic and gaming related incidents. A hazardous material spill along any of our major highways (74, 26, 93, I-70) could require evacuation of thousands of residents.
Significant snowfalls are commonplace in our district. Likewise, intense lightning storms and bitter cold can cause numerous problems with respect to response capabilities. Fierce, dry windstorms due to pressure gradients pose a risk to the district. Although most frequent in late fall and winter, the area can be windy at any time of the year. During a severe wind storm (20-30 mph winds with 60-80 mph gusts), even the smallest fire or hazmat spill could be extended by miles.
The district is served by five public water districts. Structures not served by public water generally have their own well or cistern. Those districts are:
- The Lookout Mountain area is served by the Lookout Mountain Water District
- The Mount Vernon area is served by a water system operated by the Mount Vernon Metropolitan District
- Riva Chase is served by the Forest Hills Water and Sanitation District
- Water in Idledale is provided by the Idledale Water District
- The Genesee Crossing development and Ralston school are served by a 6-inch water main from the Genesee Water and Sanitation District.
All other water in the district comes from privately owned wells or cisterns.
Most areas of the district served by public water systems have standard type hydrants, but a few hydrants do not have steamer connections. The laterals in the district vary from 1 inch to 8 inches in diameter. Lines under 4 inches in diameter are inadequate for fire flows.
Several community cisterns have been installed in the district with varying results. Two 10,000-gallon cisterns are located in Sunset Hills and one 10,000-gallon cistern is located in Summit Ranch. A 30,000-gallon cistern is located on the Rainbow Hills Road and a dry hydrant has been installed in the Cold Springs Ranch area at the pond.