The Mountain Vista Fire District is on its way to becoming a completely independent fire department with its recent decision to pursue hiring its own emergency services personnel — firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and fire officers.
The action came at a special meeting of the district’s board of directors where members voted unanimously (5-0) to change to its own staffing model.
Currently Mountain Vista contracts with Rural/Metro Fire Department to provide the staffing needed to man the district’s fire apparatus in its two stations.
The Mountain Vista board of directors notified Rural/Metro in August that it did not intend to renew the contract, which expires June 30, 2014. The district has worked under a private vendor model since its inception in 2008.
Ed Wilkerson, Mountain Vista’s fire chief, said the personnel staffing decision comes after an extended review and negotiations with Rural/Metro, along with a strategic plan revision and statistically-valid community survey administered in recent months.
“This change in our operational model was carefully thought out and discussed prior to the board reaching a decision,” Wilkerson said. “We will no longer contract with a private entity for staffing, but will hire our own employees and run our own program, operating in similar fashion to other districts like Golder Ranch Fire District and Green Valley Fire District.”
Mountain Vista had issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) this summer where it sought proposals to provide various services to the district. These included administrative services, personnel services, response standards and reporting, a training program, fire marshal services, apparatus and equipment management and maintenance, and facilities management and maintenance.
The district received bids for a number of the services from Golder Ranch Fire District and G4S Secure Solutions Arizona, but declined to award any bids.
“We thought that Mountain Vista was more than capable of providing the services that were proposed by the other entities,” Wilkerson pointed out. “We believe we can do them in a more cost effective way.”
Staffing is the last piece of the fire protection and emergency medical services model that Mountain Vista did not provide on its own. The district currently has two stations — at 1175 W. Magee Road and 9310 N. Shannon Road — and owns five pieces of fire apparatus and all the equipment carried on them.
Station 610 on W. Magee Road houses a KME pumper and a KME 79-foot quint aerial ladder, each staffed by four firefighters. Station 620 on N. Shannon Road, has a KME pumper staffed by three firefighters, a ladder tender staffed by one firefighter and a pumper-ladder tender in reserve.
Wilkerson said no decision has been made yet as to the number of staff members to be hired, but estimated it would be between 37 and 40 individuals.
“We would need some chief officer positions for command and control, likely a fire inspector, and credentialed firefighters who are certified to either emergency medical technician or as paramedics,” Wilkerson pointed out. “All our firefighters will be at a minimum of EMT level, but we will have paramedics on each shift and for each piece of apparatus to maintain our advanced life support (ALS) response.”
Wilkerson noted that the district expects it will have a fully qualified and experienced staff in place beginning July 1, 2014.
Mountain Vista Fire District encompasses about 19 square miles of properties in northwest Pima County and has about 38,000 residents. The district provides fire suppression services, emergency medical response, rescue, fire prevention and a variety of non-emergency services, including venomous creature removal.