ARIZONA NEWS

Tensions rise as Cave Creek fires leave Valley taxpayers with hefty costs

Aug 3, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 3:50 pm
(Twitter Photo/@azstateforestry)...
(Twitter Photo/@azstateforestry)
(Twitter Photo/@azstateforestry)

PHOENIX —  Fire departments neighboring the town of Cave Creek have grown increasingly frustrated after concluding the town has become reliant on their departments’ responses – with nothing paid back to their agency or their taxpayers. 

The East Desert and Ocotillo brush fires seem to have been the last straw. The brush fires cost $312,190.89 for taxpayers across the Valley, except for those living in Cave Creek. 

Despite the town’s rapid growth, Cave Creek does not have a fire department. Instead, the town has hired the private company Rural Metro for fire service needs.

The company operates on an individual subscription basis with residents. 

According to their website, this means fire protection and emergency medical services are not paid for through taxes, leaving residents responsible for establishing a fire service account directly with Rural Metro Fire. 

In the Cave Creek area, Rural Metro has one primary responding fire station. There are four firefighters on duty at all times, including at least one paramedic. 

When multiple structures were threatened in a matter of minutes during two brush fires in May, outside fire departments came to the town’s aid. 

“Somehow they’re going to have to pay for a response and … they have to change their game,” Daisy Mountain Fire Chief Brian Tobin told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

They have to change their response or we just simply can’t continue to come back in the fashion that we did in East Desert and Ocotillo.” 

Tobin believes the town has put their citizens at risk and has made no contribution of their own, all while continuing to rely on the taxpayers of other agencies to pay for emergency responses in Cave Creek. 

Similar sentiments are felt in Scottsdale. However, the Scottsdale Fire Department currently has a written agreement with Rural Metro for reimbursement. But now, Chief Tom Shannon wants out of the deal. 

“It was a flawed effort to get some costs recovered for going to calls in Cave Creek,” Shannon said.

“It encumbers my automatic aid partners as a, ‘pay as you go’ type of participation which is inappropriate.” 

Automatic aid is an agreement between fire departments to help each other across jurisdictional boundaries. The service is used when local emergencies exceed local resources. The agreement ensures when one department serves an area out of their own service is paid back to them or there is a monetary reimbursement. 

However, that’s not the case with Cave Creek as Rural Metro is not included in the regional automatic aid agreement. 

As a result, the Regional Metropolitan Phoenix Fire Service Automatic Aid System now faces a $312,190.89 bill after they battled brush fires May 17-18 and May 30 

But it’s not just the expenses that has fire chiefs worried — it’s also the fire stations left empty when they are called to lend a hand in Cave Creek. 

“Who knows what might’ve happened or what did happen during that time when everything just went empty because we all just rolled into Cave Creek,” Tobin said.  

The black dots on the map below indicate where fire trucks from Phoenix, Scottsdale, Daisy Mountain, Glendale, Peoria, and other cities left their jurisdiction to battle brush fires.  

The town of Cave Creek declined an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM regarding the town’s current fire service response. However, the town is said to be evaluating the current model that it uses for fire services and is looking for means to improve emergency responses. 

“We have been meeting with the fire agencies that assisted in fighting both the Ocotillo and East Desert Fires,” Cave Creek Town Manager Carrie Dyrek said in a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“That includes Daisy Mountain Fire, Rural Metro Fire, City of Phoenix Fire, City of Scottsdale Fire and the State Department of Forestry and Fire Management. We are working with these agencies to gain their expertise and insight into the unique wildland urban interface environment in which Cave Creek operates.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Getty Images Photo/Roberto Machado Noa)...
KTAR.com

Police investigate death of 45-year-old woman shot in Phoenix

Police are investigating the death of a woman who died from a gunshot wound in Phoenix Friday night.
16 hours ago
FILE - In this Wednesday, May 27, 2020 file photo, Medical personnel adjust their personal protecti...
KTAR.com

Arizona reports 2,482 new COVID-19 cases, 9 more deaths Saturday

Arizona health officials on Saturday reported 2,482 new COVID-19 cases and nine additional deaths from the disease.
16 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Woman dies after being struck by vehicle in Phoenix

An adult woman was killed after getting struck by a vehicle near the intersection of East McDowell Road and North 26th Street in Phoenix on Friday night.
16 hours ago
(Facebook photo/City of Phoenix, AZ USA)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix adopts roadmap to cut emissions, reach net-zero goal by 2050

The city of Phoenix Tuesday approved a climate action plan with the goal of reaching net-zero by 2050 while also reducing 50% of emissions by 2030. 
16 hours ago
(Facebook photo/Special Olympics Arizona)...
KTAR.com

Special Olympics Arizona to kick off fall games next weekend

More than 1,000 Special Olympics athletes across the state will head to the Valley next weekend to compete in the 2021 Fall Games presented by Casino Arizona.
16 hours ago
(Facebook photo/Holiday Light Experience - Salt River Fields)...
KTAR.com

Tickets for Holiday Light Experience at Salt River Fields go on sale

People can begin buying their tickets now to the Holiday Light Experience at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale which is set to get underway in November.
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
DISC DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

What you need to know about spine health

With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That’s why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK. “BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading […]
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Why fall maintenance is important for your heating system and A/C

It’s easy to ignore your heater and air conditioner when they’re working but the moment something breaks, you will likely regret not keeping up with maintenance. After all, if something goes wrong, you may be stuck with a repair that will take longer and be more expensive than simple maintenance.
...
Chris Kennedy

My Special Aflac Duck® taking flight in Arizona

For more than 65 years, Aflac has had the extraordinary opportunity and privilege to help provide peace of mind to individuals who have our supplemental insurance policies.
Tensions rise as Cave Creek fires leave Valley taxpayers with hefty costs