Funding questions about the new Salida Fire House on Oak St

Thanks to Martha Ballard for questioning the $15M firehouse!

The inflated cost derives from the many expensive green energy features Council demanded. My favorite is electrical wiring for charging future electric firetrucks. Is this realistic?

In 2022, LA Fire Dept purchased the first-ever US electric firetruck. Custom-built in Austria, it might have advantages in milder climates. But Salida? The battery life in temperate, flat terrain is only two hours! Also costs more, has shorter service life. Great deal!

What about safety? Recent hurricane coverage shows swamped lithium battery vehicles spontaneously igniting as they dry out. Salt from seawater short circuits layers inside the battery, causing catastrophic failure. We may not have seawater, but Salida has road salt. We are not the place to test experimental emergency equipment! We need robust equipment for lifesaving procedures performed under difficult conditions-including blizzards/power outages!

Do you want to risk our new $15M building, and more importantly our sleeping first responders, with experimental technology that could spontaneously erupt into a fireball? Me neither. And who fights a firehouse fire after the equipment burns?

Luckily, TABOR dictates Council must get a vote of the people to authorize multi-year capital expenditures. How would an informed electorate vote? We may never know. Council is invoking a shadowy process called Certificates of Participation(COP). The issuer in effect buys the firehouse, and we pay rent on it until taking ownership in 2051. This process avoids voter input. It might be legal, but it sure does stink.

I support a new firehouse. Our Fire Dept personnel are topnotch, but their current facility is antiquated.

If the Council wanted an $8M facility meeting our foreseeable needs, using COP might be acceptable. Though questions about costs vs issuing a bond should be addressed.

If Council wants to pitch voters a $15M project loaded with their fondest wishes, let voters decide.

But I cannot countenance an ultra-expensive and hyper-risky plan that dodges voter input using a seedy technicality dreamed up by attorneys and corporate hacks. Should we sue? Good luck fighting taxpayer-funded lawyers. Even worse, the same Attorneys that probably hatched this plot get paid again to defend their own actions. The Salida City Attorney should be a salaried employee, not a private contractor paid $225/hour to defend their own dubious actions.

Demand City Council accept voter input. Our first responders safeguard us. Please return the favor.

Vince Phillips, Salida

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The first electric fire truck is deployed in the US by LAFD | Electrek

Electric cars catch fire in Florida after flooding - YouTube

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It appears certain that the city will use Certificates of Participation (COP) to side-step TABOR. The courts have ruled COPs are lawful under TABOR provided the lease term is one year.

I’ve been reading a lot about these COPs:

The city will set-up a special purpose entity (SPE). The city will give the land to the SPE. The SPE, as the legal owner of the land and potentially the firehouse, issues COPs to raise funds for the construction project.

Certificates of Participation (COPs) are typically sold in the municipal bond market, where various types of government debt securities are bought and sold. Individuals and others can buy them in the secondary market.

The city then leases the land and firehouse from the SPE in a lease-to-own agreement. The lease must be renewed by the city each year. The lease payments typically cover the interest and principal of the COPs.

If a new council decides not to renew the lease, or if the city cannot pay the lease, ownership of the land and firehouse remains with the SPE.

The extent of the SPE’s involvement in project management can vary. In some cases, the SPE may take on a project management role, overseeing the construction process to ensure that the firehouse is built according to specifications, on time, and within budget. Alternatively, the city may retain project management responsibilities or hire a separate project management firm.

Delays, cost overruns, or operational issues with the firehouse project may lead to considerable financial stress for the city.

Examples of Lithium Battery Fires - YouTube

From what I can find online, Gas and Diesel vehicles are more likely to catch fire than electric vehicles per a recent Swedish MSB study. Roughly 20 % more likely. Please share information contrary to this study, if available. It’s somewhat new subject matter, so information is lacking. Per the Swedish MSB study, there is a 1 and 38,000 chance of an EV fire in electric vehicles. Gas powered vehicles have a 1 and 1,300 chance of catching fire. It seems like a stretch at this point to assume all EV vehicles are going to spontaneously combust due to the lack of data on the subject, however the existing data seems to support a contrary stance. Food for thought.


Thanks for the discussion You bring up an interesting point.

There are certainly references that agree with you.

Vehicle fires occur after collision, regardless of vehicle type-regardless of power source.

This reference concludes that for collision fires, there is insufficient data to compare vehicle type risk:

Electric Car Fire Risk Exaggerated, Towing Myth Rejected, But Existential Risks Loom (

But the question raised in the letter was not about collision, but instead about spontaneous ignition while parked-especially inside the firehouse.

Still a new technology I would also expect the rate of EV fires to increase as the fleet of these vehicles age.

I’d be interested in any studies you can find comparing ignition while parked.

Further, the severity of the fire, and the difficulty of putting out said fire, must be factored into the risk.

"There can be so-called “thermal runaway” if the battery is damaged or is malfunctioning and the cells heat up and drive through the rest of the battery in a domino effect.

“These fires, which won’t die down will self-perpetuate and fire fighters have to treat them differently because they can’t just spray water on the flames. They have to keep on putting on flame retardant and sometimes need to act drastically by dragging the vehicle into total immersion in a swimming pool-like area to prevent a runaway effect."

This would really put the “Hot” into the Hot Springs Pool!

The reality is the only thing that matters is how this equipment could be used for firefighting in Salida, Colorado. That is a huge unknown. From the Forbes article:

According to Akkurate, battery specialists from Finland, fires may pose big problems and said climate conditions may be responsible.

“Of 23 fire incidents, 18 occurred in the mountains or coastal areas. It was concluded that these environments resulted in harsh conditions including large temperature swings, high humidity and elevated levels of dust and particulates which ultimately led to failure modes resulting in fires,” Akkurate said in a statement.

Firefighting in Salida area:
Mountains - check
Large temperature swings -check
High humidity - check(inundated in water while fighting fires, carries thousands of gallons)
Elevated levels of dust and particulates, aka smoke - check

Our fire department answers calls outside Salida. How long would two hours of battery life last heading over Monarch Pass to Gunnison? How do they get back?

Of course EV technology will improve. Perhaps someday using EV firetrucks will be commonplace.

But there is no guarantee that expensive charging apparatus installed now will be viable for future battery technology.

Simple question for you: did Council have this discussion or anything like it before deciding to use certificates of participation to bypass voter debate/approval?

If there was a few million dollars to spend on green initiatives, wouldn’t we get more bang for our buck restoring public recycling that government officials allowed to disappear?

Is fuel consumption by Salida emergency vehicles really that huge a problem?

The entire point is this would be a great discussion to have before building a $15M fire house.

Unfortunately, the City of Salida’s use of certificates of participation is designed to render irrelevant public discussion.

Click on image to enlarge. Then click on “original image”, at the bottom in blue, to further enlarge.

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