New Meeker fire chief says town is ‘a hidden gem’

More than 30 volunteers participated in the recent search and rescue operation near Pagoda Lake west of Meeker. Meeker’s new fire chief lauded the cooperation among all the first responders in the area. Courtesy Photo

MEEKER | In the four weeks since Terry Skidmore has been at the helm of the Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department he’s responded to a structure fire at a home on Water Street, a tractor-trailer rollover accident in the Piceance Basin, and a three-day search and rescue operation in the high country, and he couldn’t be more pleased about the people he’s working with.
“It’s amazing for a small town,” he said. “I want to praise the camaraderie, the training, and the willingness to volunteer of the people here.”
Skidmore, who hails from South Carolina, said in his 28 years as a first responder, he has never seen a community where the different organizations and individuals collaborate so well. The search and rescue operation for the missing hunter last week involved multiple organizations coordinating more than 30 people for three days over a large area of rugged terrain.
“I’ve never had the sheriff out there with me side-by-side on an operation, everyone working together as a team,” he said. “All of the emergency services throughout the county, it’s astonishing the way they all work together.”
His department in South Carolina was a combination department, having paid and volunteer firefighters responding to more than 10,000 calls per year in an 854 square mile area. In Meeker, he has between 35 and 40 volunteers covering 1,190 square miles.
“My second week here we had a structure fire. To roll out six people on an engine in the middle of the day is just astonishing,” he said. For the search and rescue operation, Skidmore had seven to 10 of his volunteers on the mountain every day.
“These people care so much about their community and their neighbors, and they all have full time jobs, too. The dedication they put in is amazing. They have to drop everything and come to help others. This is what our country needs right now. Meeker is a hidden gem.”
Skidmore started as a volunteer fireman right out of high school. Four years later he became a paramedic. He spent the last 16 years in a command position in Georgetown, S.C. His wife, Tina, is a critical care paramedic and a firefighter as well, now volunteering in the Meeker department. The couple has four children, three sons ages 25, 21 and 13, and a 15-year-old daughter, who are still in South Carolina.
His reception in Meeker has been a joy. “People have made us feel so welcome and at home as outsiders coming in. They’re open to new ideas, and they know some things have to change, but they’re open to it,” he said. “I’ve not met a bad person in Meeker.”
Skidmore has nothing but praise for the members of his team and for all the first responders he’s worked with thus far. “I want all involved to know their efforts are applauded,” he said. “And I want to encourage people to volunteer. It’s not just about fighting fires. There are all kinds of things we need help with at the fire station.”