After the articles and letters to the editor written in the past few weeks, I would like to clarify a few points.
As the fire chief of the Hellsgate Fire Department, I view the building of the Town of Payson’s third station as being a great asset to the fire and EMS system of the Rim area.
The administration and crews of Hellsgate will continue to back up our brothers and sisters of the Payson Fire Department to the maximum level that we can. We know that they will continue to do the same for not only our department, but the other six departments in this area that they help respond to. Helping each other is how we have done business for more than 28 years and I expect that it will continue for many more years to come.
I would also like you to know that this contract to provide for the services of the Hellsgate Fire Department (formerly Diamond Star Fire Department) was a temporary stop gap for services until the Town of Payson could build a third station on the east side of town. It was never to be a lifetime agreement for either agency. The current agreement for coverage was to end on or before June 30, 2012 based on Payson’s ability to build and staff the new station. This has not changed. We will continue to do all that we can to help make this a good thing for all the residents of not only the Hellsgate Fire District, but all of the residents and visitors to the wonderful Rim area of Arizona.
With today’s economy, we have to accept some things as change. One of the few things that is known at this point is change is coming. As Americans, we want our services to remain the same or even get better than what are currently provided.
We are all finding it more difficult to bear the increasing financial burden this requires. Both fire agencies will have to cut somewhere to continue to provide the services we have come to expect and we will be doing so with the utmost in fiscal responsibility. We will do this with you, the recipients of both the Hellsgate and Payson fire departments’ labors in mind.
Yes, the ending of the contract will have an effect on our fire district, but we knew that when we entered into the agreement. If we had not entered into the agreement many years ago, then all who live in the Rim area would have been adversely affected.
We now have two full-time firefighters on each shift in the Star Valley station augmented by additional reserves each day. We currently have better training from responding to many more calls due to this contract. This has provided us with a more experienced and trained staff than we would have without the contract in place.
We will continue to work to figure out a way to provide the current level of services without the funds for the contract from the Town of Payson. This contract has been a great asset to the fire district as well as to the Town of Payson. In the fire service, fire departments and the crews who man the call, work together to help each other and this contract helped us not only financially, but in many other ways as well. The price was lower than some may feel that it should have been, but it was the right price and at the right time for both agencies.
Payson Fire Department will figure out what staffing it needs and can afford to continue to provide the excellent services they do. Both agencies would love more full-time staffing, but without raising taxes or receiving grant awards, this will not happen. As such, both agencies, along with the other surrounding fire departments, will continue to rely on our part-time and volunteer firefighters in our communities to fill this need. These personnel fulfill the same training requirements as a full-time firefighter, just on a part-time basis. There are still significant costs associated with these volunteer and part-time firefighters, but it is much less than the cost of a full-time firefighter. The trade off is not knowing who is and is not available for each and every call. With full-time staff, we know who is coming on the call when the 9-1-1 call comes in.
I am confident that Hellsgate Fire and Payson Fire will continue to work together to deal with these changes and to make things even better with less to do it with. This is the mandate of the country in these financial times and we are moving forward to make it work.