The Beulah community formed the Beulah Valley Volunteer Fire Department in 1949. While folks fought fires in the area before that, forming the department was an important step towards doing it better. Likewise, forming the Beulah Volunteer First Aid Service in 1978, recognizing that the nearest hospitals and ambulance services were in Pueblo, and providing initial medical care in the Beulah Valley would make a difference.
The collective goal of both services was to save lives and property, and to protect the environment. That mission is the same today, for the Beulah Fire Protection and Ambulance District. Although, just about everything else has changed, including the population, the number of homes to protect, the need for emergency medical help, where people work, how much is donated (money and time as volunteers), lessons learned from real-world emergencies, regulations, technology, expenses, forest health (overgrown and unhealthy) and even the weather (trending drier in the past 70 years).
Beulah’s volunteer emergency medical and fire responders witnessed those changes, saw that they could not go on relying on donations to cover major expenses and asked the taxpayers to support those essential emergency services with property taxes. Good folks continue to volunteer their time and talent to do the work, but support of the community will always remain to cover some expenses.
According to file documents, the Beulah Valley Volunteer Fire Department (BVVFD) was founded in 1949 and incorporated in 1963. Ray Traeber was its first Chief, followed by Stanton Hiatt, Darrell Clarke, Brad Donley, Ron Jones and Steve Belport (just six Chiefs over 63 years). The first fire engine was a 1948 pickup truck that towed a trailer with a water tank and pump. The first station was in the basement of the Ritchie Store (on Grand Ave. near the Traeber Store). It was replaced in 1955 with a station (now the old Station 1) built on the corner of Grand and Pennsylvania Avenues on land donated by Mr. Littel, with an addition built in 1976 on land donated by Bill Graham. Station 2 was built in 2007 at 5051 Waterbarrel Road on land donated by the Thompson Ranch.
This was an all-volunteer department, funded entirely by donations and grants. Typically, there were 15-20 volunteers who responded to an average of 20 fires per year, as well as maintaining the department’s equipment and facilities. Over the 63 years of its existence, the Department changed its boundaries and added services to meet the growing need of the community. By 1987 its response area extended west to the Custer County line, south and east to areas at or near the Rye Fire Protection District, north to CO Hwy. 96 and almost all the way northeast to the City of Pueblo on CO Highway 78. A large area with about 1,000 residential and commercial buildings, most of which were in the Beulah Valley. The area served was based on non-binding decisions, rather than contracts, legal agreements or formal boundaries. By 1994 BVVFD began to shrink its response area, recognizing its limited resources. In 2004, Red Creek Fire and Rescue (all-volunteer) was formed to meet the needs of a changing landscape in what had been the northwest quadrant of Beulah Fire’s response area – reducing that response area from 169 to 131 square miles.
These fine folks didn’t just respond to fires; they also served the community during winter storms, floods, drought and other naturally occurring emergencies. Young men and women often followed their parents, aunts and uncles into volunteer service to the Beulah community. Friends followed friends. New friendships were made, and some volunteered for up to 30-40 years, and still counting!
EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE
As the Beulah community grew, the need for local emergency medical response was recognized by many. Specifically, in 1976 Ray Youngren (a respected local rancher and Beulah Postmaster) was also chairman of the Beulah Valley Steering Committee, an advisory group to the Pueblo Regional Planning Commission. The local committee “voiced concern about the lack of adequate first aid and ambulance service to Beulah and appointed an ambulance committee headed by Dr. Charles Hanson, leading to the first ambulance service, reported in the Pueblo Chieftain as the Beulah Volunteer First Aid Service (BVFAS), also known as the Beulah Volunteer Ambulance Service (BVAS) and purchase of the almost new 1977 Dodge Medicruiser.” That process included recruiting and training volunteers; fundraising; and meeting operational and legal requirements.
The response area identified by the new service was bounded by Highway 96, Bergemann Road, Burnt Mill Road and the Pueblo-Custer County line, corresponding to the Beulah School, telephone and mail districts, and was very similar to the area covered by the BVVFD. The ambulance service was dispatched through the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, receiving requests for medical help via calls to 911, from “everyone in the area, residents and non-residents alike.” Beulah’s ambulance policy at the time was to not charge for its services, but rather to rely on contributions from those served. It would call for assistance from commercial ambulance services when necessary, with those services being charged to those served. In essence, the agreement between Pueblo County and the Beulah Community was a win-win for both.
What was needed to take this process from a good idea to something that actually worked was a group of volunteers that were willing to get trained, organized and serve the community as emergency medical responders. Jimmy Armstrong, Bob Boyer, Dr. Charles Hanson and Ray Youngren headed up the effort; and Hal Murray put on the first classes to certify 13 EMTs for the Beulah Community. Meetings, reports, training sessions, and emergency room volunteer time at St. Mary Corwin and Parkview Hospitals ensued. Beulah residents who achieved their EMT certification in the early years, some of the names include Corky Outhier, Bob Boyer, Diane Hanson, Ray and Yvonne Youngren, Carol Kyte, Skip Donley, Sam Ready, Billy Jo Hiatt, Judy Kreusch, Elsa Frost, Marilyn McCorkle, Jimmy Armstrong, Kristi Kyte, Julie Gray and more. The inauguration of BVAS was celebrated at an open house on February 12, 1978. The start of a long line of dedicated Beulah volunteers.
The people involved in the ambulance service were ranchers, teachers, a railroad worker, physicians, nurses, dentists, a pharmacist, a fine cross-section of the Beulah Community. Their early calls for service included heart attacks, strokes, rock climbing accidents, a fatal vehicular accident and a mass casualty accident involving a bus on 12-Mile, requiring mutual aid from several agencies. The need for a local emergency medical response capability in Beulah was real.
Over time, the agency’s name was changed to Beulah Emergency Medical Service (BEMS). No matter the name, the community was made better by every Beulah EMT who volunteered their time for the good of the entire community.
TRANSITION TO A SPECIAL DISTRICT
Both the Fire Department and the Ambulance Service were run completely by volunteers and funded by donations and occasional grants until 2008. The November 2007 election resulted in the Beulah Ambulance District being formed, with a mill levy approved and a Board of Directors elected. At the request of the BVVFD and with voter approval, the mill levy was increased and fire protection was added to the District’s services in January, 2013.
As part of that change in services provided by the District, in July of 2012, the Beulah Ambulance District formally amended its Service Plan to include the provision of fire suppression services. That 2012 amended Service Plan also referenced the need to build a new central fire/ambulance station.
So much has happened since then, including volunteer recruitment and training, fire station planning, fundraising, the Beulah Hill and Junkins Fires, the generous donation of the property for the fire station by Dick Sellers , owner of Pine Drive Telephone Co. Then there was another election, final building design, building contractor selection, construction, and now, completion of a new Fire Station #1!
Beulah is grateful and proud of the combined efforts by so many over the years, their big hearts, and honed skills have made Beulah a safer place to live. ***
Author note: This history is not complete, but it’s a start! EMS info based on newspaper articles and info from Carol Kyte. Contact Steve if you have more info to share!
Visit the Fire and Ambulance District website by visiting.... https://www.beulahfireambulance.org/
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