The Rural/Metro Fire Department, a private company that provides communities with dedicated professional firefighters to respond to each emergency within its coverage areas, shows its necessity for unincorporated areas through each 9-1-1 call, said Capt. John L. Crismon of RMFD fire station 842.
“A specific example of such comes to mind and was a call that I was first on scene of. Approximately two years ago a 3-year-old boy found a gun within a home and accidentally shot himself in the head. The boy was hanging on to life when I arrived. Through the quick response and the tremendous efforts of those RMFD personnel on scene, the boy survived his injury,” said Capt. Crismon. “Had it not been for RMFD, the boy and others like him may not have outcomes as promising… This is just one example. There are many like it.”
RMFD serves unincorporated areas of Pinal and Maricopa counties, including east Mesa and San Tan Valley, as well as other areas in the U.S., providing fire protection services on a pay-for basis to areas that do not have a local fire department.
RMFD operates in areas that are not regularly served by a traditional municipal fire department, said Colin Williams, public information officer for RMFD. The two exceptions to the rule are Fountain Hills and Carefree where RMFD has a contract with the local government to provide service. In both Carefree and Fountain Hills, the service is funded by a tax-based system.
“(RMFD) is in the business of furnishing fire protection, fire suppression and emergency medical services for an annual fee to customers who do not receive such services from the city, county or other municipality in which the person’s real property is located,” Mr. Williams said. “The majority of (RMFD’s) service areas are unincorporated county locations where there is no local, state or federal taxing mechanism in place to provide and maintain full-time fire and emergency services. Service models for these locations include individual subscription service whereby property owners and residents contract directly with (RMFD).”
Other communities may choose to contract with RMFD through the formation of a tax-assessing fire district, he said.
According to the website, https://www.ruralmetrofire.com/pinal-county-arizona.html, RMFD is the second largest fire department in Arizona. It has eight stations in Maricopa County and three in Pinal County. Two hundred firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and support personnel staff these stations.
San Tan Valley
The coverage area, which extends from the eastern boundary of Queen Creek down to the northern boundary of Florence, operates three fire stations in the San Tan Valley. RMFD also provides services to the “Chandler Heights” area of Maricopa County (south of Queen Creek and Gilbert), operating under a “mutual aid” agreement with the Queen Creek Fire Department.
RMFD acts as the emergency 9-1-1 first-responder for San Tan Valley, unincorporated Queen Creek and unincorporated Florence, according to Mr. Williams.
“We fill a void for all of the communities that [don’t have fire service],” said Chief Peter Zick, the Battalion Chief for the San Tan Valley area.
San Tan Valley was up and coming when RMFD began providing service there. Without them, the nearest fire service was in Mesa, which was very far away, he said. RMFD allowed the community to have more convenient fire service without overburdening it with the cost of a fire department.
“I think with us being here and us looking at this community from a strategic standpoint we have been able to expand,” Chief Zick said. Safety for the area has been increased because RMFD is there.
RMFD has been providing fire and emergency medical services to eastern unincorporated Maricopa County residents since 1959, according to the company’s website. In the eastern Maricopa County area, Rural/Metro has two primary responding fire stations – 334 N. Power Road and 401 N. 104th St., both in east Mesa.
RMFD started over 65 years ago in central Arizona and serves communities that do not have fire service. It does not offer service to areas with their own town-, city-, county- or state-provided fire protection services.
Additionally, RMFD is under no legal obligation to respond and render services to properties or individuals who are not subscribed to the service, Mr. Williams said. If RMFD does provide services to individuals who are not subscribed to their service, they will be charged for the services provided.
Mr. Williams said RMFD provides additional services, including comprehensive fire and life safety services, in large areas of Pinal and Maricopa counties where it acts as the primary fire service to those areas and responds on all 9-1-1 calls, regardless of the nature.
“There is little to no difference in a quality comparison of RMFD and other fire departments. RMFD provides the same type of fire and EMS service as any municipal fire department and in some cases could be argued a superior level of service,” Capt. Crismon said. “RMFD’s firefighters are required to have the same certifications, education and qualifications as any other fire department.”
Additionally, RMFD offers other services not available through all fire departments.
“RMFD has enhanced services that go well beyond the normal fire and EMS 9-1-1 system. For example, each RMFD subscriber is offered a comprehensive yearly home safety survey, RMFD responds and removes dangerous reptiles such as snakes and RMFD has smoke detector and fire extinguisher programs to name a few,” he said.
RMFD has a large presence in Pinal County where approximately one-third of the population is served by RMFD, Mr. Williams said.
The department boasts about its high-quality firefighters who have helped accomplish multiple goals and receive awards for their service.
RMFD was recognized by the Arizona Department of Health Services as an Excellence in Prehospital Injury Care Traumatic Brain Injury certified department; Firefighter Rich Damante from station 842 (Ocotillo and Meridian) was selected by the 100 Club of Arizona for the highly coveted Jason Schechterle Outstanding Firefighter Performance Award; and RMFD acted as the driving force behind the newly formed San Tan Valley Public Safety Coalition whose goal is to build a strong and safe community through ongoing events and safety campaigns, officials said.
“Annual subscription service rates are based on the total enclosed square footage of all structures on a given property as recorded with the appropriate county assessor,” according to Mr. Williams. “This would include living areas, garages and outbuildings.”
Service can be established by calling RMFD during regular business hours, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 800-645-9413 or 480-627-6200, or online at www.ruralmetrofire.com.
Subscription services are available with annual, semi-annual and quarterly payments. A monthly option is also available with enrollment in RMFD’s AutoPay program, which provides automatic payment deductions from a debit or credit card.
Charges for emergency transportation (such as ambulance and helicopter) are regulated by the Arizona Department of Health Services and are not covered by the subscription fire agreement.
RMFD’s 9-1-1 fire and emergency services are made available only through the voluntary participation of property owners with an annual subscription membership.
“Subscription revenue is used to provide and maintain the availability of full-time fire department services to communities that would otherwise have no such service available,” Mr. Williams said. “The business of firefighting is extremely expensive, risky and unpredictable. The level of service in any given service area is directly related to the level of subscription support. A (RMFD) fire subscription assures the delivery of fire and emergency services to individuals, families and businesses within the community.”
One of the reasons that RMFD is important is because homeowner’s insurance does not provide fire protection.
“It is important to note that in the state of Arizona, homeowner’s insurance policies do not provide coverage to a property for fire department services,” Mr. Williams said. “Insurance companies are restricted from paying for the activation and annual fees for fire accounts as well as any charges assessed by the responding fire department.”
Editor’s note: Nora Heston is a freelance writer.