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Central Orchard Mesa History

In May of 1958, after countless meetings and legal proceedings, a group of progressive thinking landowners finalized the plan for the Central Orchard Mesa Fire Protection District. In September of that same year, two tracts of land were offered up for the new firehouse, one by Bert Hetherington and one by Harold Ford. In January 1959 a decision was made to accept the Ford property and the land was donated to the District and registered at the February 26, 1959 Fire Protection Board business meeting. During that same meeting a decision was made to purchase a 1949 Ford Pumper for $2,350.00. This offer was turned down, and on April 28, 1959 a second offer of $2,450.00 was accepted and the first Engine 51 was purchased. In March of 1959 work began on the new station by fire department volunteers and community members.

The first Fire Protection Board Meeting was held in the new station on September 15, 1959. Through the following years, the Board of Directors managed to pay off a $6,000.00 bond, acquire needed equipment, and purchase a siren for the station that would act as a paging system for calls. When the fire department was needed for a call, a member would arrive at the station and activate the siren that was located outside. The distinctive sound would notify members, who were primarily orchard owners and farmers, that they were needed for a call. This system used in conjunction with a phone-tree was the paging system for the department until the mid 1970s.

On May 22, 1962 the first Fire Department Appreciation Banquet was held. On September 10, 1963 the Fire Protection Board of Directors entered into negotiations with Harold Ford to purchase Lot 7 that adjoined the fire house for a sum of $250.00. Remodeling began on the station and with the exception of a few modifications, this is the same station used today. January 31, 1964, Chief Hetherington asked the Fire Protection Board to purchase shirts for the firefighters with the name of the Department on the back and the firefighters name on the front. These were the first shirts with a common dress code for the department. On August 6, 1966 the Fire Protection Board purchased the first badges for the firefighters at a cost of $3.50 each. Also in August of 1966, the Board signed its first Mutual Aid Agreement. On November 9, 1973, Grand Junction Fire Chief R.T. Mantlo came to the Fire Protection Board and explained the new communication notification system that was to be installed throughout the Grand Valley. One central phone number will be used to report emergencies. This phone number will be manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the Grand Junction Police Department free of charge. When an emergency call was received, the appropriate Fire Department would be notified by small radio units carried by fire department personnel. These units were called Page Boys, and cost $250.00 each. The District purchased 3 Page Boys, with 6 more purchased in March of 1975.

Over the years the face of the District has changed, new roads have been built, large parcels of land have been divided and the population has grown. As the District has changed, so has the Fire Service and the Central Orchard Mesa Volunteer Fire Department has adapted to the times. Historically the Department has always provided First Response medical care and in March of 2005 licensed an ambulance for transports. In 2005 the Department of Homeland Security awarded the Central Orchard Mesa Fire Protection District a grant for a new engine and in February of 2006 the Districts first brand new engine was put in service, a 2005 American La France.

Excerpts taken from Chief Gitchell's  Speech, February 2006 Banquet

Record of Chiefs 
  • C.P. Muhr: April 1959 - May 1962
  • Bert Hetherington: May 1962 - December 1966
  • Earl DuBose: January 1967- April 1985
  • Tom Kirkpatrick: 1985 - May 1989
  • William Bapst: July 1989 - July 1993
  • Kent Harmon: September 1993 - January 1995
  • Dave Larsen: April 1995 - December 2004
  • Tim Cooper: April 2005 - March 2006
  • Dave Gitchell: April 2006 - November 2020
  • Shawn Cox: February 2021 - August 2023
  • ​Darrell Charlesworth: August 2023 - Present