Brush Pit Crisis



Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, regarding cooperation among fire departments in the Rim Country. Why won’t Payson get on board?

“... neither Payson nor Gila County have adopted a firewise building code to regulate things like roof materials to minimize that chance that a distant fire will rain down embers that can set houses on fire. So few homeowners have cleared brush and trees from around their houses that once a fire gets started in Payson it can move through the treetops from house to house ...

“Meanwhile the four departments continue to work on a plan to merge their operations, despite Payson’s decision to pull back from the discussion about a month ago — in part because its operating without a fire chief ...

“If we were in Phoenix right now — to say every one to three fire stations needs its own administration, its own board — everyone would look at you and say that’s crazy ... the only way to survive ... is to all get together and operate as one department.”

What’s wrong, Payson? Are you interested in re-enacting Rome burning while Nero fiddled? Lets join our neighboring communities for mutual protection. Why won’t we cooperate with the fire chiefs of Hellsgate, Christopher-Kohl’s, Pine-Strawberry and Houston Mesa? What’s the hang-up? Fire season (which, realistically, is always) is coming. When/what do you plan to do when/if the fires start? If politics are involved, I think it’s past time to put that aside and work for the good of the Rim Country community. All of us.

C. Anne Boisvert


Ronald Hamric 2 years, 11 months ago

Ms. Boisvert,

As one who spent his career in the Fire Service, let me shed some light on the situation. First, there are Mutual Aide Agreements that call for "assisted service "in kind". That means when one jurisdiction has a need for assistance, they get the assistance from another like agency based upon their ability to "respond in kind". I send you two first class fire engines properly staffed, and if I need your assistance in the future, you send me two first class fire engines fully staffed.

These agreements cover one very important aspect of municipal services. They help prevent people who do not want to shoulder all the costs to provide adequate fire protection from getting that quality service from those who actually pay the costs of those services. That is a very simplistic description of how and why such agreements are entered into. There are many facets to the issue relative to liability, legal jurisdictional issues, etc.

There are also "Contractual Agreements" that are similar in that if a requesting agency cannot meet the "respond in kind" aspect of a Mutual Aide Agreement, then the requesting agency agrees to "contract" services from another agency better staffed and equipped to address the need. The requesting agency agrees to pay compensation to the responding agency based upon the costs incurred in providing the service. All this is usually clearly spelled out and mutually agreed to in the contract.

To put it even more simplistically and in a rather straight forward manner, you get what you pay for. Payson is currently dealing with costs associated with operating an efficient Fire/paramedic service to those citizens who pay the taxes to support that service. I can certainly understand their reluctance to further hamper that service by providing it to non residents who made the conscious decision to live in rural environments that traditionally have few if any of the types of services one finds in a city or town.

A little past experience in my case does show that we have come quite a ways since the "old days" When I first started in my career, we frequently could not assist adjacent cities in time of need due to incompatible threads on hose couplings and fire hydrant threads, and the connections on the various fire engines. Those issues have by and large been put in the past. Now there is more "standardization" of equipment and procedures.

Do not be too quick to take Payson's elected representatives to task for looking out for the interests of those that pay the bills over those that don't. I certainly appreciate why it is in the interests of those outlying enclaves to want a "unified service" combining everyone's assets. It's how it's all FAIRLY paid for that will be the biggest hurdle.


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