Mesa Del Covered, But Mutual Fire Aid Is Adrift

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Payson firefighters will continue to take care of the citizens of Mesa del Caballo, although the two fire departments no longer have a mutual aid agreement.

"Their safety and well being is our primary concern," said Payson Fire Chief John Ross.

He said the Payson Fire Department is functioning until the end of the month with an interim response agreement with Mesa del Caballo that began Jan. 28. "They've had a lot of turmoil out there since the first of the year," Ross said.

So much so that the Payson Fire Department wants no mutual help from their neighbors to the north.

"Payson is not going to request resources from Mesa del at this point in time," Ross said. "They broke their agreement because their existing personnel retired and they did not have appropriately trained and experienced people."

Before the end of January, the Payson Fire Department had a mutual aid agreement and an automatic aid agreement with Mesa del Caballo.

"They no longer met the requirements that were in place," Ross said.

Under the interim agreement, Payson firefighters will continue to provide fire and emergency services to Mesa del. Ross said Diamond Star, which voided its agreement with Mesa del as well, will respond to Mesa del only if requested by the Payson Fire Department.

The Diamond Star fire board discontinued its automatic aid agreement because Mesa del had lost all of its qualified firefighters, Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch said.

"We're willing to help them get through this," he said. "We've offered some training. They talked like they needed it. We offered it and it hasn't gone anywhere."

Ross said he hopes the interim agreement that is now in place will allow Mesa del Caballo's fire board to decide on a policy and a direction.

"The agreement is in place until the end of the month," Ross said. "By that time, we hope to have another mutual aid agreement in place and we'll be working on that in the interim."

A third board member, Ed Blose, was accepted by the Gila County Board of Supervisors Feb. 2, bringing Mesa del's fire board to its full strength.

Blose said the 10 firefighters now on the department are training hard with temporary Fire Chief Frank Hansen.

"He is working with them and has more actual firefighters on his roster than they've had in a long time," Blose said. "We're not the only ones having problems. It seems to me, from what I've seen, that when firemen become firemen, that becomes their little domain. I think we'll get through this."

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