I am a volunteer firefighter with the Hellsgate Fire Department up at Mead Ranch. I want to crow about how far we have come since the change of commands from the old Tonto Village Fire Department to the new and improved Hellsgate.
I have had property here since 1960 and have watched Payson and subsequent communities grow, I also see the need of a true fire department. I am very proud of what we have accomplished in a little over one year. We were a rag-tag "who wants to be a fireman" to a professional emergency response team. Chief Gary Hatch has brought our communities together and instilled a camaraderie amongst our team members.
In 2000, I went through a mini academy in Phoenix. Gary and his captains have put us through so much more training that I think what I learned back then was just a taste of what firefighters really do. In Phoenix we learned how to hook up to hydrants and address the fires with all the advanced equipment. The closest thing resembling a hydrant up here is a hose bib. Gary's team has taught us how to deal with the real world of isolated communities and little water. We now have the advanced equipment and know how to use and maintain them. To prove to you that Hellsgate is a viable fire department, look at the surrounding communities that send their men to be trained by the Hellsgate Fire Department team.
One of the most important things that this merger has done for us up here is to bring us advanced medical response, where we had none. Our group in Collins, Mead and Tonto Village now has four EMTs and coming on board is a paramedic. I am the fourth oldest in Hellsgate and have a real comfort knowing my buddies are going to take care of me, when that time comes.
I haven't taken all of the courses offered to me, but since my trade is in air conditioning hydronics pumping and piping, I offer the ability to run the trucks pumping system with confidence. You're probably thinking, what in the hell (excuse the pun) is this guy doing acting like a fireman? Well, that would be a fair question a year ago, because I was acting. Now I'm proud to say I'm not acting, I am a fireman and I think you would be proud to see me pull up to your house when you really need us. My wife is and so is my crew and company.
Gary recognizes the individual abilities of each of our team members and gives us the chance to excel in what we do best. We each are a link in a chain with Chief Hatch as the anchor and I am ever so proud to be one of those links in an honorable chain. I hope I speak for most in our communities.
Thank you so very much, Gary.