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County and Ak-Chin tribe help Hellsgate with rescue equipment

The Hellsgate Fire Department will improve its ability to rescue hikers with the help of the Ak-Chin Indian Community and Gila County.

The entities will partner to administer a grant for HFD to purchase a new all-terrain vehicle.

John Wisner, HFD chief, looks forward to getting his team some help to improve service.

“Hellsgate Fire Department, like all of the local fire departments, has seen an uptick in medical/rescue responses in the surrounding forests,” said Wisner. “Often the injured or sick person is located in remote, hard to reach areas which require that our EMTs hike in to the patient while carrying heavy medical equipment, etc.”

The lack of an all-terrain vehicle puts the HFD responders in difficult positions, he said.

The first arises when those present at the rescue site notice HFD personnel struggling with all the gear. They offer rides on ATVs, but HFD personnel have to decline.

“While this is a tempting proposal, it comes with certain risks and unknowns for our responders when they accept the offer of a ride. First, our responders do not have the proper helmets to ride on ATVs. Next we do not know the skill level of the driver giving the ride and if the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This leaves our responders with two bad choices, take a long exhausting hike or take a chance with a stranger and no helmet,” said Wisner.

HFD firefighters could wait for Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers to bring the injured to them, but “it is very hard for first responders to accept when the report is for example a teenager with serious injuries,” said Wisner.

Second, some friends and family members become hostile when they feel first responders aren’t doing enough.

“It can be a nightmare and dangerous situation for our crew who has to make that decision,” said Wisner.

After listening to requests for an off-road vehicle, Wisner applied for grant money from the Indian Gaming Community.

“What I have promised my crews is that I will seek grants for items we need, but cannot afford at this time,” said Wisner. “I have been seeking out grant opportunities anywhere and from anyone to fulfill my promise to my crews. So, I have written to every Indian community which has a casino to find out if and how HFD could apply for gaming revenue sharing grants as required in AZ Prop 202.”

The HFD received a grant from the gaming community in 2018 and applied for more grants from other tribes this year.

“I am communicating with several tribal representatives for other grants,” said Wisner. “Currently, HFD applied for grants to replace our three aging heart monitors, our two sets of powered extrication gear (Jaws of Life), and a breathing air compressor ... I have met with the Tonto Apache Tribal Council and plan to request funding in the fall to replace our oldest large diameter fire hose.”

With the Ak-Chin grant in hand, Wisner looks forward to improving response times to wilderness emergencies and “ensuring our first responders can safely reach individuals in the surrounding forests without being exhausted when they arrive at the patient.”

Wisner also plans on using the UTV at special events “when a smaller maneuverable vehicle would be useful in crowds or traffic.”

The new UTV could bring state funds into HFD’s coffers. The new UTV can not only aid local, but state fire departments, “due to our statewide mutual aid compact,” said Wisner.

“In this last case (state use), the district would be compensated for the use of the equipment,” he said.

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Get ready to rodeo Rim Country

This year’s 136th annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo promises to be bigger and better than ever with new musical acts, line dancers and an extended rodeo royalty pageant on top of all the rodeo action.

The event kicks off Aug. 15 and runs through Aug. 17, with most of the events at the Payson Event Center, 1400 S. Beeline Highway, at the south end of town.

Rodeo performances at the event center start with the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association events Aug. 15. The performance starts at 6 p.m. Admission is a can of food, which will benefit area food banks. Events include barrel racing, team roping and breakaway calf roping. Additional WPRA events follow at 7 p.m. Friday and performances at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.

Friday is the Tough Enough to Wear Pink night. Fans and cowboys alike wear pink to raise money for cancer support groups in Payson. The Miss Rodeo Arizona entrants will also appear at the event, taking a lap around the arena.

On Saturday, Aug. 17, the day kicks off with the Rodeo Parade at 9 a.m. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Arizona” and will proceed east along Main Street from Green Valley Park. Five Guys and Back to Basics are sponsoring the parade, organized for the eighth year by Kiwanis of Zane Grey Country.

Kiwanis is still looking for volunteers to help with the parade.

Bobby Davis, with Kiwanis, said volunteers would help with staging and organizing floats. A free breakfast is offered to all volunteers starting at 6:15 a.m. Saturday at the Payson Senior Center. Staging takes place between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and most volunteers will be done by 11 a.m., he said.

To help, contact Davis at 928-978-4323.

On Saturday there are two performances at the event center. Family day kicks off at 1 p.m. with the APS Clown Troupe, face painting and fun for the kids at the Kids Corral. There will be roping, panning for gold and Lil’ Sheriff swearing- ins. Come see Shady Kate and she’ll fix you up. For adults, there will be “shotgun weddings” and pictures with the Jail Posse.

Then Saturday evening is the patriot performance to honor fallen, wounded and returning veterans.

The evening performance starts at 7 p.m. and gates open at 5 p.m. Around 6:15 p.m. Saturday, the 2019 Miss Rodeo Arizona will be crowned in the arena prior to the rodeo.

And Desert Gals, a line-dancing group, will perform at the rodeo Saturday between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the dance tent at the rodeo grounds.

The Official After Party and Rodeo Dance returns to the Rodeo Grounds starting at 9 p.m. featuring David Kane with Open Range on Friday and Western Fusion Saturday night. Ticket holders are admitted free. All others will pay a $5 cover at the door (an adult must accompany anyone under 21).

Pre-sale discounted tickets are available at Bob’s Western Wear and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are more expensive at the gate. Rodeo and ticket information is available at 928-474-9440 or visit

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