Last week, the Norwood Fire Protection District promoted Mark Garcia to the rank of captain, and also wildland coordinator. Garcia, who is the first to assume this role in Norwood, has served as a volunteer for the department the last eight years.

“Norwood is growing, and our fire, rescue and emergency medical capabilities need to keep pace,” said John Bockrath, who was hired as the department’s first full-time professional chief three years ago. “With Norwood’s strategic location in western Colorado, our department is rising up to serve within the broader federal- and state-managed fire command structure that’s facing down increasing regional fire danger.”

Garcia spent several years as a wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service. He’s a state-certified structural firefighter, and will soon be obtaining his national EMT certification.

Additionally, the fire protection’s board of directors approved hiring Scott Wiederquist, amparamedic and former San Miguel County Deputy Sheriff. Wiederquist will provide part-time EMS backup on the approximately 400 emergency calls the department responds to every year, in its 385-square-mile district with more than 3,000 residents.

With this staffing increase, the Norwood officials believe they’ll be able to source personnel and equipment to state and federally managed fires around the country, and be eligible for more funding grants.

“This is a great way to make money for the district, and pay for the new positions and improvements we’re planning,” Bockrath said. “We’re also looking for more volunteers to back us up and give back to the community. For those interested in getting well-paid when we’re called out on the bigger wildfires, it’s a great on-the-job training opportunity for anyone interested in the rewarding career paths available in fire and emergency medical services.”

Now, Norwood’s department staffs three paid positions, along with about 40 volunteers. With Garcia now full time, he’ll be leading efforts on a five-year plan to expand department resources and upgrade facilities in Norwood and Redvale.

“Though I’m focused on wildland, it’s all hands on deck until we get more volunteers,” Garcia said. “I’m very excited to devote myself to serving our community, keeping it safe, and training those who want to join us.”

With more major fires in recent years – some of the largest in state history – and limited resources over tremendous geographic areas, the Norwood Fire Protection District leadership said their committed to positioning the department within the greater national initiative to manage wildland fires more effectively. Also, officials say the BLM is moving its headquarters to Grand Junction from Washington, D.C., and the Forest Service is building a multi-million-dollar strategic fire command air base in Colorado Springs. Norwood is part of the regional movement to bolster fire-fighting infrastructure in the Rocky Mountain West.

The Norwood Fire Protection District was established in 1932 as a volunteer department that covered 18 square miles. In 1953, it became the Norwood-Redvale Volunteer Fire Department covering both towns and 70 square miles. In 2008, it transitioned into the Norwood Fire Protection District.