July 12, 2008

Open Dam Road, Summit Officials Ask Judge Dillon Firefighters Say Barrier Slowed Accident Response

By Bill Scanlon

Several Summit County government officials asked a judge Friday to override Denver Water's decision to close the Lake Dillon Dam Road, a move by the utility to foil a possible terrorist attack at Dillon Reservoir.

The complaint, filed in Summit County District Court, said the closure makes access for emergencies "extremely low."

Earlier Friday, firefighters racing along the dam road to reach an injured bicyclist were stymied when they had to leave a voice mail requesting a Denver Water official to come down and unlock the barrier blocking the road.

"It was very frustrating," Lake Dillon Fire Rescue Chief Dave Parmley said. "It was a matter of several minutes" delay.

Denver Water Board officials had not yet reviewed the court filing Friday evening and declined to comment.

Denver Water announced the closure Tuesday and placed heavy barriers on the road at staggered positions.

County government officials have accused the water board of providing short notice for the closure of the road, one of three cross- county routes.

The Dillon Reservoir is the primary source for the Denver area's water.

A coalition that includes the Lake Dillon Fire Protection District, Summit County commissioners and the towns of Dillon, Silverthorne and Frisco filed a complaint alleging that utility officials failed to explore alternatives with county governments for closing Dillon Dam Road and have not disclosed details of the security concerns that prompted the closure.

Sheriff John Minor said in a written statement Friday that his office has found "no specific, credible threat against the dam."

Paramedics and firefighters said the dam road is crucial for reaching fires and crashes.

"The point was driven home this morning," Parmley said Friday.

While his firefighters were waiting at the gate, a Summit County ambulance came along on the same call.

The firefighters jumped in the back of the ambulance, which is smaller than a firetruck and could negotiate the serpentine route through the concrete barriers on the other side of the gate.

Sean Caffrey, director of Summit County Ambulance, said getting to the scene took 21/2 minutes more than it required to get to an accident at almost precisely the same place a year before.

"The bicyclist actually crashed on a bike path close to one of the two security officers," Caffrey said.

"He started some first aid while the other officer opened the access gate."

Caffrey said the bicyclist's injuries appeared to be minor "and I'm assuming she's doing fine."

Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said new barriers that are scheduled to arrive Wednesday will allow access for firetrucks, police and EMT vehicles.

Originally published by Bill Scanlon, Rocky Mountain News.

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