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Scottsdale lends fire official to help Cave Creek explore fire service options

(Twitter Photo/@PHXFire)

PHOENIX – Following back-to-back devastating brush fires in Cave Creek over the summer, the town has taken a big step towards addressing the lack of fire service in the town.

The town council voted unanimously to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Scottsdale, which focused on exploring options to create a firefighting strategy and establish modern day fire services.

Scottsdale agreed to loan Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ford to Cave Creek for at least one year. Ford helped create the Scottsdale Fire Department and hopes his expertise can offer solutions for the town.

Ford said he would also like to help nearby fire departments who have faced financial burdens due to the lack of fire service in Cave Creek.

“I’m starting with a risk assessment of the town, so I’m looking at what their biggest challenges are, what they need to address,” Ford told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

His goal is to get the town of Cave Creek in to the automatic aid system.

Automatic aid is an agreement between fire departments to help each other across jurisdictional boundaries. The service is used when emergencies exceed local resources.

The agreement ensures when one department serves an area out of its own service, they receive compensation through work or monetary reimbursement.

That system is what saved the town during both the East Desert and Ocotillo fires over the summer, even though the town was not included in the agreement.

As a result, the Regional Metropolitan Phoenix Fire Service Automatic Aid System faced a $312,190.89 bill after they battled the brush fires in May.

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.

With inadequate resources and no reimbursement, neighboring cities and fire departments sent letters to the town of Cave Creek indicating they would no longer offer support with the current circumstances.

Cave Creek Town Manager Carrie Dyrek said the new intergovernmental agreement is “a step in good faith” and believes it was perceived well by neighboring departments.

“I think the initiative we took with this idea of having Jim Ford here working with the town on what the plan should be – the message got back to the other chiefs in the valley about where we are going,” Dyrek said.

Ford plans to meet with nearby fire chiefs and other local officials in hopes of hearing what needs to be accomplished within Cave Creek to be considered for the automatic aid system.

He will make recommendations based on his assessment to the town council, which will have the final say in decisions.

Ford described three primary challenges the town faces, including the lack of emergency medical services, the wildland interface and the growth of the area.

“I think it’s time, I think it’s time for them to do it and I’m excited to see what we can get done,” Ford said.

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