The Snowflake/Taylor Fire Department is ready to help you at a moment’s notice. Fire Chief Willie Nelson explains that since the beginning of the year, as the population of the two towns continues to increase, they’ve run about 2,000 calls for service, with most of those being medical calls and about 300 fire calls.

In July 2015, the Snowflake Volunteer Fire Department, the Taylor Volunteer Fire Department and the ambulance service, all merged into one department. Prior to that it was volunteered and people were paid on call. Now it’s a fully paid municipal fire department. The difference between municipal and district — a fire district collects property tax from property owners to run the fire service. Municipal means funding comes from the town’s sales tax revenue; neither town collects a property tax. However, there is property tax, but it goes to Navajo County and to a number of other things. Nelson says they receive funding through ambulance revenue and sales tax revenue from the two towns.

There are 25 personnel within the fire department, working in three shifts — a, b and c. That breaks down to four full time people per day, with 12 full time responders. Nelson says “sometimes we run a third ambulance, or third crew, giving six full time people a day. The extra two people come from a pool of part time people and everybody is dual certified. We’re fire and EMS. So, if there’s a fire we jump on the fire truck and go and if it’s a medical call we jump on the ambulance and go.”

Nelson feels that the department is growing and they’re trying to meet all the needs of the growing community with a lot of areas to cover.

“It’s hard to keep up with everything and implement the new programs that we would like to implement. The department appreciates the support of the towns, the mayors, the councils and town managers. They have all been supportive and we have a really good working relationship with the police department and with neighboring communities when we get too busy. When all our people are out on calls, Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District will come in and cover calls for us. Heber-Overgaard Fire District will as well. We’ve got a real good working relationship with the whole fire community. It’s a mutual aid agreement that we help them and they help us and the relationships are strong. Dispatch communications recently moved to Show Low. So dispatching is done for everyone in the region through Show Low Police Department. If there’s an accident between us and Show Low, they’ll send units and we send units. We can talk to each other because we have each other’s radio frequencies. It makes it more of a regional public safety response than just a local response. That’s been a good positive thing that’s happened and they also dispatch for police, this way all the agencies are talking to the same dispatch center. It has really proven to be a good thing. There’s always growing pains and there’s always things to work out. But it’s turned out to be a much improved system, because when everybody gets together, you can accomplish more, everybody is pitching into the funding rather than one department paying for everything. Our response area is basically halfway to Holbrook to the north, almost to the White Mountain Lake turnoff to the south, east to the Apache County line and west halfway to Heber,” said Nelson.

When asked about fire department consolidation, Nelson said, “consolidation is a big thing within the fire districts across the country and Arizona, however (not consolidating) costs more and it’s more difficult to run one small department than it is to run several. You have administrative staff that can oversee several departments and its cheaper than trying to oversee each individual one. Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District was a consolidation of Lakeside, Linden and Show Low, they’ve also taken over White Mountain Lakes. It’s saved those areas quite a bit of money because you have one administrative staff to run all those other stations, as opposed to administrative staff over each individual one. The Snowflake-Taylor Fire consolidation proved to be very effective. We provide a better service combined than we did individually. But we’re not looking to consolidate with any other agency, with Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District, or anyone else.”

Nelson added that “local residents are concerned that Timber Mesa Fire is going to come and take us over, but nothing is in the works, there’s no discussions and it’s not going to happen. We are a municipal department, we’re different than the districts and the plan is to remain a municipal department for the towns of Snowflake and Taylor.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.