Champions crowned at Western Ridge Chili Cookoff

The Western Ridge Restaurant and Resort was all fired up on Jan. 28 with 17 kinds of chili competing for the top prize in the annual chili cookoff.

Even the Glacier View Volunteer Fire Department was there and for a good reason! This event is a benefit for the fire department. The different chilis this year ranged from soft and mellow to sadistically spicy and I would know because I tried every one. I shared a table with some of the members of the fire department who were having to fight to stay awake after a 3 a.m. motor vehicle accident response, but this didn’t keep Fire Chief Greg Niswender from promoting his cause.

The Glacier View Fire Department has a lot to be proud of. This department is designed to reach any fire within nine minutes. Fully equipped vehicles are strategically stationed at the homes of volunteers within the 58-mile radius to be dispatched at any time from the point nearest the emergency. Emergencies include structure fires, wildland fires, emergency medical response and ice and water rescue. Eighty-five percent of the calls are emergency medical responses.

When calls necessitate Flight for Life transport, it’s up to the fire department to get the victims to Gate 8 near the main firehouse, which is the best place for the helicopters to land safely.

While the medical side of the department is well-equipped and up to date, Niswender stressed the need for new fire-fighting equipment, a need that is only getting more urgent as our dense pine forests continue to fall to pine bark beetles. While the current ratio of structure fires to wildland fires is one to 10, a look around the area reveals an impending change in that statistic.

When I visited the firehouse at Gate 8, Niswender showed off his fleet. He has been with the fire department since his early 20s and has seen the fleet and fire crew grow from some very humble beginnings the the early 1980s. In those days, the fire department was equipped with a 1974 pickup, a 1970 structure engine and a 1943(!) state wildland engine. A far cry from the modest but formidable force that it is today.

There are some very real concerns, however. While the chief proudly displayed the latest ambulance, shiny new and state-of-the-art, purchased with a Colorado State EMS grant, he then pointed out a classic red fire truck, purchased used about 10 years ago, vintage 1982. He then pointed out another fire truck from 1974 and another from the 1950s.

While they are fun to look at and still serviceable vehicles, their age is showing from the inside out. Just recently, while responding to a vehicle accident on McNay Hill, the 1982 fire truck lost its brakes. Not the kind of thing anyone would want to have happen while responding to an emergency!

The brakes were repaired and the fire truck is back on the road, but to actually replace that truck would cost about $500,000. With an annual budget of $140,000, the Glacier View department already stretches every dollar to the limit. This makes any new piece of fire equipment seem like a long way off.

That’s why fundraisers such as the Western Ridge Chili Cookoff are so important to the fire department. A combination of good food, good fun and raising awareness can’t help but be a success. A team of four judges — Jerry Hegland, Ron Munn, Dennis Kimmel and Norm Davis — risked a case of heartburn to decide which of the chilis deserved honors in a variety of categories.

Best Overall was Multi-Colored Chili made by Dwayne Valentine. Rhea Shaw ran a very close second with her chili, “The Rheal Deal.” The People’s Choice went to Eric Creighton for “His Red Chili” and in second was a sexy “Chic Chili” made by Johnnie Davis.

In the category of Most Unique, I took first place for my Green Chili Posole (almost cheating, really; I knew that no one would make a posole) and second place went to Donna Creighton for her creamy smooth “Her White Chili.” Honorable mention went to Duaine Krause who came all the way from Greeley to support the cause with her “Grandpa’s Kid Tamin’ Chili.”

Also deserving mention was “Firehouse Chili” a robust classic made by volunteer firefighter Ed Engels, the first one I tried and the one I went back to for seconds.

Western Ridge would like to thank all participants and the customers that came to support the Glacier View Volunteer Fire Department. The event raised $300 for the department.

And we would all like to thank Dwayne Valentine for revealing his recipe for Multi-Colored Chili. How could anything so simple, quick and easy be as good as this?

Dwayne’s Chili Recipe

1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb of extra lean ground beef
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can dark kidney beans
1 can Great Northern white beans
1 can of light kidney beans
1 jalapeño pepper (roasted)
2 Hatch chiles (roasted)
1 anaheim chile (roasted)
1 serrano chile (roasted)

In a frying pan, cook onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. About 3-5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until done. Add rest of the ingredients and let simmer for 30 to 50 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

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