Emergency Services in Black Hawk, Colorado


Black Hawk, Colorado is best known as a gambling and entertainment destination in the Rocky Mountains, drawing over ten million visitors annually. However, behind the casinos and attractions lies a small town with a population that relies on its emergency services to keep citizens and tourists safe.

The Black Hawk Fire Department (BHFD) serves as the backbone for emergency response, working closely with medical services, law enforcement, and government agencies. This article provides an in-depth look at BHFD’s operations, skills, training, equipment, values, and collaboration with other response teams.


  • With specialized emergency management, equipment, and community collaboration training, Black Hawk Emergency Services keeps residents and over ten million annual visitors safe.
  • The Black Hawk Fire Department responds to fires and medical emergencies, performs rescues, and manages disasters related to hazardous materials.
  • Cutting-edge tech like helicopters enhances BHFD's rescue operations in the mountains
  • Constant training, care, and regional coordination are key elements of BHFD.

Local Experiences and Culture

With only about 100 hundred residents, Black Hawk is characterized by small-town culture, and this culture permeates its emergency services. BHFD aims to serve citizens and visitors through integrity, efficiency, and an “overall willingness to assist wherever needed,” as declared in its mission statement.

Beyond gambling, Black Hawk offers a range of historical attractions and outdoor activities amidst the Rocky Mountains. BHFD plays a crucial role in preserving public safety for these experiences through fire prevention, emergency medical services, and search and rescue capabilities.

Cultural events like Historical Preservation Month and Gold Panning Championships allow visitors to engage with Black Hawk’s past while enjoying present-day amenities. BHFD helps safeguard these events and enables the community to celebrate the town’s history.

Emergency Services Insight

BHFD’s 23 full-time firefighters operate on a unique “48/96” shift rotation, which means two days on, and four days off. This schedule maximizes staff coverage for a small department protecting over 40,000 people daily.

All BHFD personnel are cross-trained as hazardous materials technicians and EMT- EMT-Intermediate level (EMT-IV) medical providers. This allows them to administer IV fluids and certain medications essential for trauma care.

The department utilizes customized fire engines, ambulances, brush trucks, and SUV command vehicles to access emergencies in Black Hawk’s challenging mountain terrain.

Advanced Rescue Operations

Given the remote setting, BHFD maintains extensive technical rescue capabilities for high-angle, confined spaces, structural collapses, and water emergencies. All members undergo rigorous training for rescues involving ropes, trenches, and more.

BHFD also coordinates closely with the Colorado National Guard and its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, which can access patients in remote areas with challenging terrain and weather. Hoist rescues allow victims to be safely extricated in areas that ground units cannot reach.

As a FEMA Type 3 Hazmat team, BHFD responds to environmental emergencies from chemical spills to natural disasters across the region, providing mass decontamination and technical expertise.

Training and Professionalism

BHFD’s specialized mountain and helicopter emergency service and rescue capabilities require constantly honing skills. The department conducts monthly drills focused on aircraft emergency response, hoist operations, and short-haul air rescues.

In addition to hazardous materials response, their training regimen includes firefighting tactics, emergency medicine, driving skills, fitness, and officer development. A mix of in-house and national courses ensures well-rounded expertise and preparedness.

According to Chief Woolley, BHFD aims to “be recognized as a leader in the fire service, respected by peers and the community.” Their professionalism has earned them regional Type 3 designations for technical rescue, hazmat, and incident management.

Equipment and Technology

A mix of fire engines, ambulances, brush trucks, ATVs, and watercraft equip BHFD for versatility in responding to varied mountain emergencies. Thermal imaging cameras, extrication tools, and chemical detectors provide technological enhancements for rescue operations.

Two medically-equipped SUV command vehicles allow Chief Officers to access scenes and establish incident command. In a mass casualty event, the vehicles become mobile command posts supporting large-scale triage, treatment, and transport.

Collaboration and Teamwork

Given Black Hawk’s small size but large visitor population, BHFD relies extensively on mutual aid from neighboring agencies. Multi-department coordination is crucial for large-scale emergencies like wildfires or floods.

Regional collaboration also unlocks access to specialized resources like heavy rescue capabilities, air medical helicopters, and Type 1 hazmat teams. Joint training builds critical personal connections for more seamless emergency response.

BHFD also participates in state and national emergency compacts like the Colorado Statewide All-Hazards Resource Mobilization Plan. These mutual aid systems allow equipment and personnel to be quickly shared between agencies during crises.


What types of emergencies does BHFD handle?

BHFD responds to fires, medical emergencies, traumatic injuries, hazardous materials, technical rescues, and natural disasters. Their services include emergency medicine, extrication, high-angle rope rescue, and structural collapse.

How does BHFD’s staffing model compare to larger departments?

Despite having just 23 uniformed members, BHFD provides fire, EMS, and specialized rescue around the clock by using a unique 48/96 shift schedule. Larger agencies often rely more on volunteers or part-time help.

Why are Black Hawk’s emergency services important for tourism?

As a renowned tourist destination, Black Hawk requires extensive emergency services to keep over ten million annual visitors safe. BHFD helps ensure that casinos, hotels, restaurants, and outdoor attractions thrive.

What enables BHFD to be so effective as a small mountain department?

Constant training, versatile expertise, specialized equipment, and regional collaboration allow BHFD’s small staff to punch above their weight in responding to varied and complex mountain emergencies.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.