25 Years Of Fighting Fires

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The Diamond Star Fire Department in Star Valley is preparing for its 25th year of existence.

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Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch has been with the department for 24 years.

The district was put up for election in November of 1980, but its first year of collecting tax revenue was in 1981.

In July 1982, the fire district had its first training meeting with 13 members attending.

Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch, who has been with the department for 24 years, said they had no idea of what they were doing at the time.

He said the first thing the district had to do was build the fire station.

The new fire station was built and completed in 1996, with the second floor following in 1999.

The fire chief said volunteers did most of the work and it cost less than $220,000.The fire station is now appraised at about $1 million.

Hatch said the new station is 6,850 square feet, while the original station was only 1,850 square feet.

In 1983, the fire district responded to 13 calls. Through the first nine months of 2006, the department went out on more than 400 calls for service.

Hatch said two-thirds of the calls it responds to are based in the town of Star Valley. He also said they back up the Payson Fire Department as the third engine about 20 percent of the time.

"We just help each other. It's the right thing to do," Hatch said. "It's a brotherly deal with the Payson Fire Department."

The equipment the Diamond Star Fire District has at its disposal is one big engine, one regular size fire engine, two brush trucks, a water tanker and two staff vehicles.

To save money, the district converts its own brush trucks.

The Diamond Star Fire District is funded partly through taxes on residents' properties -- 45 percent of operating costs come from taxes. Much of the remainder is made when firefighters fight wildfires in another region.

"We try to provide the most coverage for the dollar," Hatch said.

Saving taxpayer money is and always has been a top goal for the Diamond Star Fire District.

"We run this like a business," Hatch said.

He said the district has only six employees, and added the department could not survive without the aid of volunteers.

There are advantages and disadvantages in working for a small fire district.

Hatch said it is not uncommon for a firefighter in Star Valley to help someone he or she knows, which would be a rare occurrence for a firefighter in the Valley.

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

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