Loveland, February 1, 2012

According to Loveland Fire Chief Randy Mirowski, Loveland’s Fire Department is only staffed and equipped
to respond to one house fire at a time.  In a town of 68,000 residents, this puts Loveland at the bottom tier
nationally in fire safety.  

“Right now if we have a residential structural fire, house fire, we use all our available staff...that
happens like 35 times a year.”

                                                                                    Loveland Fire Chief Randy Mirowski
                                                                                    Comments to City Council 1-31-2012

Unlike most other cities in Colorado, the City of Loveland failed to expand and extend fire services
commensurate with the city’s growing population and boundaries over the past decade.  According to an
evaluation by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), Loveland lacks sufficient personnel and equipment to
respond to emergencies on the northwest and west sides of the community.  The ISO is a national
organization that rates city fire safety based on criteria like distance between stations, staffing and new
building fire codes.  On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the best) Loveland is rated as an ISO-4.  The rural areas
outside Loveland are rated an ISO-5.

Today, a large number of Loveland residents now live outside Loveland's 5-minute response time area for
fire emergencies given the placement of stations and lack of proper staffing and equipment.

Loveland relies on neighboring communities to backfill the shortage in personnel and equipment for multi-
structure fire emergencies.  However, Chief Mirowski explained the response time when relying on other
cities can be from 45 minutes to an hour before enough personnel are on scene to suppress the fire.  The
constrained budgets and increasing work loads inside surrounding communities make this borrow from our
neighbors approach less feasible in time and hazardous for residents.  This means even the number of
residents who live in the vicinity of a fire station can't be assured of fire protection if their proximate fire
company has left to assist in another part of the city.  In addition, more residents than ever before now live
outside the city's goal of a 5 minute response time.

To restore Loveland’s fire safety to “average” Loveland's Council was presented with a four phase plan
during a study session last night following a discussion on future spending increases for Loveland's :
creative sector services.  During the past three years officials from both the Loveland Rural Fire District and
Loveland's Fire Authority have been meeting to hammer out a plan to combine services and share
resources to improve response times.  The presenters at the January 31, 2012 study session were Chief
Mirowski, Jeff Swanty who heads Loveland's Rural Fore Protection Board and an attorney for Loveland's
Fire Authority, Greg White.

Firefighters in Loveland have pushed for a higher level of staffing (referred to as Model 2) but the city
instead settled for Model 1, a lower level of staffing, as a goal they hope to reach between now and 2019.   
Model 1 contemplates 3 firefighters per engine while Model 2 contemplated a higher staffing level of 4
firefighters per engine.   Today Loveland's Fire Engines are staffed with only 2 firefighters.

In 1971 the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration passed what is called
the "2 in/2 out" rule for entering burning structures making it a legal requirement that 4 firefighters be on
scene before attempting to enter a burning structure (using oxygen and other apparatus that must be
monitored from outside the building).  The rationale behind the requirement is that if a pair of firefighters
enters a burning building than two must remain outside so those entering the building may be rescued if

Where Will The Money Come From?  Four Phase Plan

The Chairman of the Loveland Rural Fire District Board, Jeff Swanty, told the Loveland Council Loveland's
Rural Fire Authority will seek a Mill Levy increase from residents in the unincorporated areas outside
Loveland for fire services of an additional 4 Mills adding to the current 5.8 Mill Levy.  This will make the fire
Mill Levy 9.8 while the Thompson Valley EMS service district taxes just under 2 Mills for a total of over 11
Mills for residents in unincorporated areas who reside in the Loveland Rural Fire District and Thompson
Valley EMS service area.

Swanty told Loveland's Council,

“Its time for the rural citizens to pony up and pay for this program”

Even if passed, the soon to be proposed Mill Levy increase for residents within Loveland's Rural Fire
District (outside city limits) will not be enough money to pay for the overall proposed changes to Loveland's
overall Fire Authority.

During the building boom between 1998 and 2008, Loveland collected million of dollars from developers in
special fees to offset the cost of expanding services.  These fees are called CEF's (Capital Expansion
Fees) that are to be used for the capital costs of expanding city services to new residents.  The operational
and maintenance costs of those increased services (O&M) come out of the city 's general fund which gets
replenished by sales taxes and to a lesser extent property taxes.

While most cities indeed use such funds for the narrowly construed purpose for which they are collected, in
late 2007 Loveland went on a spending spree buying property using "loans" from restricted CEF funds set-
aside specifically for capital improvements for the Loveland Fire Department.  In late 2007, LovelandPolitics
first reported there was a secret plan to buy nearly 100 acres along Highway 402 and I-25, most of the
money used was Fire Authority CEF's.  
see our story from 2007

That property remains in the city's hands and will likely not sell for the price the city paid.  In the meantime,
the city's 10 year loan from the fire CEF's is being repaid slowly using general fund monies.  This depletes
the general fund which is supposed to be available for O&M after the capital improvements are made.  
Loveland's City staff is proposing a phased-in approach over nearly a decade because the city simply
doesn't have the funds necessary to make the improvements that are desperately needed.

The McWhinney Effect

McWhinney's Centerra development has put an extra-ordinary burden on Loveland's Fire Authority funding
because they have largely avoided paying the taxes necessary for the fire authority not only expand but
also operate effectively.   In 2004, the City of Loveland waived $7 million in CEF's for Centerra while also
granting a 25-year Urban Renewal Authority in addition to approving a diversion of city sales taxes for 25

In 2009, the City of Loveland continued favorable tax treatment for McWhinney by discounting the CEF's for
newly proposed high-density apartments buildings by 61%.  
See article

City staff has proposed a long term phase-in plan that includes hiring more firefighters over time to ensure
the minimum number of 3 firefighter
s per engine company can respond to fire emergencies in Loveland by
2019. The problem is no money is currently available in the city's general fund to fund that plan.  

The normal funding sources for the emergency fire services of sales taxes and to a lesser extent property
taxes, are being deferred over 25 years in Centerra as part of the city's MFA (Master Financing Agreement)
signed in 2004 with McWhinney.  Under the agreement, Loveland collects less sales taxes in Centerra so
McWhinney may charge a "fee" that appears like a tax to the consumer but is used to pay McWhinney's
Metro District that doesn't provide any emergency services.

Most of the revenue to the Centerra Metro District is used to repay over $100 million in public bond debt
McWhinney used to make "public improvements" to their developments.  Many supporters of the Centerra
tax gifts pointed toward the revenue side claiming it would increase Loveland's general fund with new sales
taxes.  While this is true, they didn't also consider the cost side of the ledger of providing critical city
services to a growing number of residents and business's whose taxe are going to McWhinney's Centerra
Metro District instead of the City of Loveland.

Loveland Fire Chief Pleads His Case

Chief Mirowski told Loveland's Council,

"The reason we are bringing this to you is because we are severely under staffed and under funded."

He explained that compared to other cities in Northern Colorado, Loveland is far below neighboring cities in
every possible measure of fire safety.  Miroswki explained the weighted average shows Loveland is 29%
lower than the rest of Northern Colorado whether you measure fire fighters per capita, response times or
most other metrics commonly used to determine the fire safety of a community.

Councilman Daryle Klassen complained to his colleague aloud that despite making police, fire, water and
power the city's priorities during their recent off-site meeting, the Loveland Museum expansion funding is
right back on top being considered equally with emergency services for funding.

Mayor Gutierrez angrily responded that Councilman comments were wrong.  Councilwoman Joan Shaffer
also jumped-in to defend spending on Loveland's Museum and other cultural services she argued are
critical to the City of Loveland.

Councilman John Fogle inquired whether the low ISO rating for the city will impact the insurance premiums
homeowners pay to ensure their real property.   He was told, "the potential is there" while City Manager Bill
Cahill explained the low fire rating for the City of Loveland will impact the city's ability to attract quality
employers as commercial tenants look to fire rating standards when considering where to locate.  This is
driven, in part, by their cost of fire insurance.

Cahill reminded the council that Loveland's Library Services are in the top 3% of the country, the finance
department he called "award winning" and mentioned Loveland's Police Department is "certified."  He
acknowledged his own "shock" when being hired by the City of Loveland and discovering just how neglected
the Fire Department had become.

Cahill's predecessor, Don Williams, prohibited fire officials from addressing council on such matters and was
rumored to have removed Loveland's Fire Chief Chard after the Chief refused to endorse Williams' plan to
remove the 5-minute response rule and instead make is only a "goal" for the city's fire service.
See the
LovelandPolitics story on Chief Chard's resignation in 2008.

Read our commentary on the matter.
Loveland's Independent News Source
Loveland Fire Safety Rated
Below Average
“right now if we have a
residential structural fire,
house fire, we use all our
available staff...that happens
like 35 times a year.”

Loveland Fire Chief
Randy Mirowski

The Basics

Loveland's Fire Authority
covers approximately 100,000
residents within a 35 square
mile area

80% of calls due to a fire
related emergency come from
residents within city limits while
approximately 20% from those
outside the city's limits.

The Minimal Plan

In a 4 phased plan between
now and 2019:

Add onto Fire Station #2 while
building a new Northwest Fire

Create Minimum fire staffing
levels of 3 per company

Increase Loveland's "5 minute"
response area to include all
residents within the City of
Links to related stories

April 2007
Council approves 800 additional
residences in Centerra without
considering impacts to public
safety organizations

Oct. 2007
LovelandPolitics breaks news of
secret plan to purchase 402
property using Fire Dept. funds

Nov. 2007
Story About Council using Fire
Capital Reserves to buy
property on 402

August 2008
Fire Cheif Resigns (rumored to
be fired) after refusing to
support further degredation of
Loveland's Fire Service

June 2009
McWhinney tax holiday story
about council waiving 61% of
Fire and other CEF funds tfor

June 2010

June 2010
Commentary on
LovelandPolitics Blog about the
death of two residents due to a
structure fire

Oct 2011
Follow-up story on 402 property
purchase and issue it created in