The alarm sounds.
The firefighters respond.
When will we back them up?
The house fire in Mesa del Caballo started in the chill hours before dawn, apparently triggered by a space heater. Despite the early hour, neighbors ran out into the street, grabbed garden hoses and tried unsuccessfully to help the desperate family save their three dogs. Those brave and willing neighbors barely kept the fire from spreading to other houses before crews arrived.
Those firefighters — professionals and volunteers alike — answered the call in the darkness. Fire trucks from Houston Mesa, Payson, Hellsgate, Whispering Pines and Beaver Valley all responded, honoring a mutual aid agreement that binds the mostly small, scattered fire departments.
But we have relied too long on their willingness to answer the call — despite the fragmentation and divisions among the policymakers. Too many communities have no fire protection at all — or a struggling, underfunded, undermanned community department.
The policymakers in Payson, Gila County and Star Valley must undertake a more comprehensive and coordinated approach. We need a regional fire district to raise money for thinning and prevention efforts — and a far more coordinated effort to bind together Payson and the seven struggling community fire districts.
The alarm has sounded. Who will respond?