LITTLETON, Colo. — Littleton Fire Rescue officially became South Metro Fire Rescue following a symbolic change of command ceremony Tuesday.
"Response times will remain on an equal playing field with really the advantage of us having more resources available to move those pieces of apparatus around and ideally have better response times," said Eric Hurst with South Metro Fire Rescue.
Voters in Littleton recently approved the merger, through a property tax hike, to allow South Metro Fire to take over coverage within the municipality.
Highlands Ranch and Littleton district voters already approved a similar merger with South Metro Fire.
South Metro is now the second largest firefighting force in the state with 29 fire stations, more than 700 employees and serving half a million people.
"The bottom line for residents who have relied on Littleton Fire Rescue for over a century is when you call 911, you're still getting the same service that you've always gotten," said Eric Hurst with South Metro Fire Rescue. "The good part of it though is with Littleton merging in with South Metro, we have a couple of extra things."
Hurst said the consolidation will improve response times, increase efficiency, lower operating costs and allow for closet unit dispatching.
Closet unit dispatching means when an emergency call comes in, the closet fire truck goes, not the one with jurisdiction, which in the past could have been farther away.
"As units respond on calls or we have a major incident, our dispatchers are moving those pieces around the district," he said. "Whether its fire trucks or ambulances, to even out the coverage, that equals better response times."
Hurst also stressed no one is losing their jobs. South Metro Fire is taking over the current fire stations, and its employees. It also plans to add another fire station in Highlands Ranch near Mountain Vista High School soon.
South Metro also brings with it a higher insurance rate, known as ISO Class 1 and international accreditation. A distinction Hurst said should save Littleton and Highlands Ranch residents money on their home insurance costs.
"It's a phone call to their insurance agent to ask what difference is that going to make for them," Hurst said.
He called it a bittersweet ending to a 128-year-old fire department, with hopes of creating a higher level of service for its community, just under a new name.