No fire department can do it all. Sometimes when the unforeseen occurs, a department needs a little help. And mutual aid agreements between town fire agencies assures that the help is there when really needed.
Such agreements vary throughout the region. Rural/Metro maintains three fire stations within the unincorporated community of San Tan Valley. These firefighters go to all fires in the community but bill for services to homeowners that don’t subscribe (San Tan Valley has no declared fire district). But Rural/Metro will come to the aid of surrounding areas when needed, even joining Florence to fight a wildfire south of that town last year, according to Colin Williams, a Rural/Metro spokesman.
The Superior Fire Department has an automatic mutual aid agreement with its counterpart in Queen Valley, both of which have a core of professional firemen supported by a group of volunteer firefighters. Under the pact, when either department gets a call concerning a house or commercial structure on fire, the call is immediately forwarded to the other department and equipment from both simultaneously head for the fire.
Even in Kearny, which has an all-volunteer fire department, a mutual aid agreement is in effect with Winkelman-Hayden to assure that all the major conflagrations are efficiently extinguished, said Kearny spokesperson Laura Snow.
The latest wrinkle in mutual aid is the valley-wide automatic aid agreement, in which computer technology is employed to assure fire engines are dispatched where and when they are needed. In Queen Creek, for instance, under this agreement, should extra help be required, firefighters from fire stations in Chandler or Gilbert with be automatically notified. As the central computer keeps track of where all fire stations in participating towns are located. Should another fire be reported in an area of Queen Creek where the local fire station’s personnel are already busy fighting a fire, the system will alert the nearest fire station (perhaps in Gilbert) to travel into Queen Creek to extinguish the second blaze.
Participating towns in the valley-wide agreement – in addition to Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek – include Apache Junction, Guadalupe, Maricopa, Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe.