The Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department receives no government funding. It’s fueled by the generosity stemming from the local community.
Each year, on the Sunday during Labor Day weekend, the Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction sets up camp in a meadow in Rist Canyon a few miles west of Bellvue. The profits from the auction directly benefit the volunteer fire department. In Colorado, there are only two fire departments that are donation based and receive no tax funding.
“Basically, it costs us $45,000 to $50,000 to just turn the keys,” said Bob Gann, chief for the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.
But, this year the department isn’t as concerned with fundraising as compared to other years. In 2012 the High Park Fire burned 100,000 acres and claimed 259 homes. Some of those homes belonged to some of Rist’s volunteer firefighters.
Louise Creager, live and silent auction art chair, watched as her home burned.
“The firefighters were at the bottom of the driveway and the fire was coming, 30-40 mph with 200-foot flames above the house,” Creager said. “And so, they said in those cases (safety dictates that) they just ditch and leave. So all the equipment they dropped burned and that all has to be replaced.”
The department lost a lot of equipment and a few fire stations due to the blaze, but efforts both locally and internationally helped to raise over $800,000 for the department.
The donations from the High Park Fire and the profits generated from the auction and other fundraisers ensures that fire trucks are maintained and are insured, new equipment is purchased and destroyed fire stations are resurrected.
In addition to the Fine Art Auction, local artisans displayed their works on booths across the meadow. Each booth costs $50, which went directly to the department.
Scott LeCocq, owner of Canyon Spirit Gallery in Old Town Fort Collins, and his wife attend the auction each year to support the volunteer firefighters and to display their work. For nearly a decade they’ve participated and donated several works of pottery and furniture to the silent auction.