SHOW LOW — In a fire district that covers 75 square miles, only 17 volunteers in the Pinedale/Clay Springs Fire departments serve to protect the nearly 6,000 residents.
Their Fire Board and personnel are committed to providing “Life Safety, Incident Stabilization and Loss Control” through quick response and mitigation of fire, medical, vehicular and other emergencies when dispatched for the protection of the residents and visitors in their jurisdiction.
Fire districts are special taxing districts and are independent of any city or county government. Property tax dollars and various awarded grants keep the equipment in shape and the fire trucks running. The only two paid positions are for Fire Chief Robert Garvin and Office Manager Starla Kizzar.
Garvin said, “We have 10 apparatuses, including pickups, first responders’ vehicles, tenders and three engines. We have two stations, one in Pinedale and one in Clay Springs. Timber Mesa Fire and Medical just ordered a fire engine, and it’s two years out before they can get it. I think they said it cost $700,000.”
How does such a small, all-volunteer fire department keep operating?
Kizzar said, “We try really hard pinching pennies and only spend where we need to, and save up the reserve money. Then as we need it, we can make purchases. There are also grants that we apply for and use. About five years ago we purchased another engine. We tend to buy more good used equipment that will still satisfy our needs here in our district, without breaking the bank.
“We are fortunate to have a fire department auxiliary that helps us with things we can’t do, like with the Chuckwagon event, which helps us raise money outside of the tax money. Some of the auxiliary people have fire and EMS skills or are willing to learn those. We’re always looking for good volunteers for the department itself, and also for things like events.”
The good news is that funding may be coming to fire stations around the state. The organization Support Arizona Fire Districts filed a ballot initiative measure on Oct. 5, 2021. The Arizona Sales Tax for Fire District Funding Initiative may appear on the November ballot in Arizona as an initiated state statute.
The initiative petition, now cited as the “Arizona Fire District Safety Act”, states, “Arizona is home to 144 fire districts which provide fire, emergency medical, and associated emergency services to more than 1.5 million residents and tens of millions of travelers on Arizona roadways. Many of these fire districts are located in rural parts of the State, with personnel serving as first responders in the event of emergencies or accidents on large stretches of widely traveled highways. Our fire districts are critically under-funded, leading to personnel and equipment shortages and extremely long response times in many areas of the State. To ensure that fire districts can provide prompt and effective emergency services throughout the State, we must solve this funding crisis. This Act would do so by imposing an additional sales and use tax increment of 1/10 of 1 % — that is, just one penny for every $10 spent, for a period of 20 years.”
We have all heard from a variety of sources recently that, once again, this fire season is going to be bad. Garvin explained that their department has encouraged their citizens to clean up around their properties and homes.
Garvin said “We allow them to do mitigation burning, when the weather permits. We work with the state regularly about getting properties mitigated on the larger scale. I believe they’ve already done all the ones for right now. We don’t have any currently running.”
Garvin added that they host community meetings about being fire wise. They also post information on their Facebook page and website to advise property owners to clear out flammable materials such as brush and trees from around their homes.
“When an opportunity for a mitigation grant arises, we let the community know. The department also puts out flyers in various locations with pertinent information about fire prevention, and word of mouth works really well for small communities. There’s really not much else we can do,” said Gavin.
Garvin would like to remind everyone that when pulling a trailer, make sure to secure tow chains above the ground. Also, if people are going to have a fire, make it small and don’t build it under a tree.
“Most importantly,” said Garvin, “make sure the fire is out and cold to the touch before leaving. Use common sense; it goes a long way.”
To learn more about the Pinedale and Clay Springs fire departments, visit https://clayspringspinedalefiredepartment.org.