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Frequently Asked Questions About the Boulder Fire-Rescue Master Plan

The following FAQ’s are meant to help external and internal stakeholders understand the scope and intent of the update of the Boulder Fire-Rescue master plan, which is currently underway.

A Master Plan is an organizational planning document that draws from public engagement as well as a thorough assessment of the operational environment to frame resource allocation decisions. Organizations of all types utilize these documents to proactively guide decision-makers and to develop effective strategies to address challenges related to sustainability, funding, and resource allocation.

Fire departments rely on these plans to ensure they are deploying their resources based on medium- and long-term goals. Fire department service delivery has grown increasingly complex over the last few decades and is now considered an “all-hazards” approach that goes well beyond simply responding to fires. These competing needs can have an influence on the ability to respond. Because of this, it is important that fire departments think and plan strategically.

The fire department performs updates to its Master Plan every five years. This interval ensures that we stay current with environmental changes in the community and that our services are aligned with other city priorities. While the master plan also identifies issues beyond the five-year horizon, the current interval ensures that the majority of the plan remains realistic to achieve.

The master plan focuses on setting the medium and long-term direction of the fire department based on several inputs. A few of these include community expectations, patterns in the demand for services, regulatory and industry changes, fiscal limitations, and internal stakeholder feedback. During this update, the fire department is particularly interested in re-examining its role in emergency medical services (EMS) and how to respond to an increase in call volume

Modern fire departments provide a wide-range of services, also know as “all-hazards” responses. This may include a host of emergency response disciplines in addition to firefighting such as technical rescues and hazardous materials responses. The primary service delivered by the fire department is EMS, accounting for roughly three quarters of all fire department responses. Currently, the department provides these services using entry-level interventions, know as basic life support (BLS) and contracts with a third-party provider to deliver advanced life support (ALS) and hospital transport. This limits the department’s ability to analyze patient outcomes, develop innovative response approaches. The department is using the master plan to analyze the implications of taking over some or all of the ALS delivery to overcome these limitations and potentially reduce the time it takes for an ALS provider to reach a scene.

The fire department will use the master plan as one of the primary planning documents. To operationalize the document, a workplan will be developed that begins to establish the order in which identified initiatives are tackled. This will include assigning these initiatives to staff members to oversee and to ensure completion. In addition, the master plan will be one of the documents the department uses to “tell the story” about the direction the department is headed. Finally, the department will integrate the document into other relevant planning activities, such as the recently completed Risk Assessment/Standards of Cover.

The fire department is part of the general fund of the City of Boulder. Therefore, all funding decisions are made by the City Council based on input and recommendations from city staff during the annual budget process. There are two major items that most master plans call for in terms of funding. Ongoing initiatives, such as staffing additions are part of the annual operating budget approval process and are outlined in the department’s operating budget. Larger capital items, such as the relocation of a fire station, is outlined in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). These capital items are often funded through voter approved ballot measures that outline the justification for such expenditures.

The plan is reviewed on an ongoing basis during the assembly of the document, which ultimately leads to acceptance by City Council. The master plan scope is authorized by the executive master plan team, which consists of executive leaders in the city. This team guides the work of the various staff groups assigned to conduct the bulk of the work. Throughout the process, the department communicates updates to City Council in writing and in person to ensure that the plan meets the intent of these stakeholders. Finally, the City Council will accept the document, which is currently expected to occur in early 2019.

The fire master plan will be a component of the planning framework outlined in the Community Sustainability Framework found in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP). The BVCP is a master planning document that guides all planning efforts in the BVCP planning area and is approved by the City of Boulder and Boulder County. This approach ensures that planning efforts are coordinated to achieve optimal outcomes focused on the seven strategic areas of this planning framework. These are Safety and Community Well-Being, Community Character, Mobility, Energy, Natural Environment, Economic Vitality, and Good Governance. To achieve these goals, the fire master plan primarily links with the BVCP and the City of Boulder Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

There are several opportunities for engagement. Dates and events to provide in person feedback can be found under “Key Dates” at the “Be Heard Boulder” website, located at In addition, a brief survey can be found at this same website which is designed to allow community members an opportunity to weigh in.