The Los Pinos Fire Protection District has named Josh Lorenzen as its new fire chief.
Lorenzen became involved with the fire services as a volunteer in 1998. He eventually took a part-time job with the department, then became a full-time employee in 2003.
He “bounced around” a little through the years, he said, but he continued to stay involved with the department in various capacities. He has been working full-time with the department since 2018.
“My door is always open and I’m always willing to talk to people with questions or concerns regarding the organization,” he said.
Lorenzen, a Bayfield resident since 1997, served as deputy chief before being named fire chief this summer. He replaces Tony Harwig, who retired.
The Los Pinos Fire Protection District covers 325 square miles – or about the size of Hoosier National Forest in Indiana – in the southeast corner of La Plata County. It also has an agreement with New Mexico to cover parts of San Juan County near the Colorado-New Mexico line.
The agency has 18 full-time firefighters and paramedics who work three shifts per day, with six first responders on duty at any given time during the day. The fire department also has five administrative employees, a fleet mechanic, a small wildland firefighting team and part-time reserve members.
“We have seven volunteers at various levels of training,” Lorenzen added.
Lorenzen said his top priorities include updating the department’s strategic plan, which will rely on data points and community feedback about agency strengths and weaknesses to help guide the organization for the next three to five years.
He also wants to prepare the department for population growth, which will result in more calls.
“The county as a whole is expanding and it’s growing,” Lorenzen said. “You see that in Durango and we see that in Bayfield and the surrounding areas, and I think we expect that we’re going to have some growth down in this area, as well.”
The agency averages about 1,000 calls a year. Of those, 60% to 70% are EMS calls. That is followed by wildland fire responses, about 10 structure fires per year, hazardous-materials calls and mutual-aid responses, in which the fire department assists surrounding agencies with their calls, he said.
The district is somewhat unique in that it also provides service for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and works closely with federal agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
That can bring up some jurisdictional issues, but by and large, Upper Pine and surrounding agencies have a good working relationship and resolve jurisdictional issues and financial issues after an emergency has been dealt with, Lorenzen said.