By Mary Lou Egan
On July 25, 2001, after 62 years at 4600 Franklin St., Station 9 moved to new quarters on 4400 Brighton Blvd., which serves the National Western Complex, Globeville, River North areas, I-25 and I-70.
I stopped by on a recent Sunday afternoon where firefighter Fred Sotelo met me and graciously showed me around. Unlike older stations, almost everything is on one level, including the kitchen, dining and sleeping rooms. Each person’s gear is stowed in its place and easily accessed — seconds count when responding.
The rigs are colossal. Engine 9 holds 500 gallons of water and when traveling with Tower 9 is referred to as “9s a pair.” The most exciting part for me was climbing (with some assistance) into the behemoth HAMER 1 (Hazardous Materials Emergency Response).
An integral part of the Denver Fire Department (DFD) Hazmat operations, as well as the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) “decon” teams, HAMER 1 responds to incidents in the five-county area around Denver. Sotelo described the equipment stored inside the vehicle, its use, and the finesse required to work with other departments and districts.
In the lobby is a small museum with historic photos and the fire pole, lights and awning from the old station. The most poignant display is a glass case containing the gear and the story of Lieutenant Rich Montoya.
At 4:30 a.m. on May 14, 2006, an engine and a tower from the station responded to a structure fire at 4306 Thompson Court. The engine crew consisted of Lt. Rich Montoya, engineer Ken Lavato, and FF1s Rob Gargano and Steve Bales.
After Tower 9 saved 16-year-old Raquel Gutierrez, a mayday was dispatched for Montoya. He was rescued unconscious from the second floor and died from smoke inhalation on May 21, just 15 shifts shy of his retirement. He was the 54th professional Denver firefighter to die in the line of duty.
Sotelo noted the dramatic changes in Denver and the neighborhoods served by the station. Brighton Boulevard was once lined with industries, small businesses and homes — a blue-collar working community.
The upscale growth in the RiverNorth (RiNo) district has increased the population density and the responsibilities of firefighters. High-rise buildings stand shoulder to shoulder along the Platte River and along railroad tracks. Nearby, homeless people start fires to cook or stay warm. What is unchanging is the professionalism, courage and dedication of the crew at Fire Station 9.
Mary Lou Egan is a fourth-generation Coloradan who loves history. You can reach her at email@example.com.