Looking back over the past two years, Larry Martin of Beaver Valley can see thousands of hours of work, gallons of sweat and plenty of blisters. But his investment has paid off with a dream that has become reality: The Beaver Valley Fire Department is a reality that is counted on by the community's residents and neighboring fire departments alike.
When Martin became chairman of the fire board at the start of 2002, the entire board was new and there was no fire department. The fire district only had a few old pieces of equipment, a new fire station and a contract with Mesa del Caballo Fire Department to provide emergency services to Beaver Valley.
Martin and his fellow neophyte board members believed the community's tax dollars could go further if Beaver Valley had its own fire department.
"A number of people told us we'd never be able to succeed," Martin said. "They said our community was too small (about 200 full-time residents, including children and seniors) to get the needed volunteers and even if we recruited some people, they wouldn't be properly trained. People also said our equipment wasn't adequate."
But Martin, his fellow board members and a few members of the community decided to chase the dream after neighboring fire departments promised to come to the community's aid in the event of emergencies.
Martin recruited many of volunteers who shared the dream. He recruited Duke Arrington, a firefighter with more than 30 year's experience, to be chief. He and Arrington recruited a number of residents -- some with firefighting experience -- to join the team. He recruited other residents to serve in support roles.
Today the department has a roster of 18 volunteer firefighters (many of who are certified for both structural fires and wildfires), three certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs -- two completing advanced certification), and five working fire engines (although some are old).
In addition, the department expects to receive a new 3,000 gallon tanker/pumper next month due to a federal grant issued last summer.
"We have more trained firefighters and medical personnel, per capita than most communities, and, thanks to our grant committee, we have obtained more than $175,000 worth of new equipment in just two years," he said. "That's about three times our total annual income from taxes. What's more, we've been able to do all this without raising taxes."
The district's rate of $2.50 is less than that of most other districts in the area.
Today, just two years after the fire district took over its own operations, Martin said his dream has become reality.
"Every time we've needed something, someone has stepped up and found a way to help us get it," he said. "For example, our fire district's auxiliary has provided us tremendous support by holding bake and garage sales and chili contests. Our young people held a car wash. Individuals have donated tools, equipment, money and, most important of all, hours and hours of time. Our grant committee has gotten us two new fire trucks and a lot of medical, communications and safety equipment. Even the community helped; Mogollon Health Alliance provided us with a $4,000 grant to help train our medical personnel.
"It's taken the cooperation and effort of many of our residents," he said, "but, we've done what a lot of people said we couldn't do."
The fire department recently reorganized to meet changing conditions. Chief Arrington, resigned to spend more time with his family and business, but agreed to continue as a consultant to both the board and the volunteers.
Tom Zelkovich moved up to acting fire chief for operations and Todd Plues, who is completing his IEMT training, became assistant fire chief for medical support.
Martin said that with things going smoothly, he felt it was time to step down.
"I'm still interested in the district and will be glad to offer advice or help if I'm asked, but right now, I'm looking forward to spending more time with my wife and church," he said.