You can hardly spend half a day in Sun City without seeing or hearing at least one fire engine responding to a 911 emergency.
The Sun City Fire and Medical Department is a very busy one for our community of 40,000-plus compared to Surprise at 148,000 and Peoria at 252,000. The number of emergency calls in Sun City for June was more than twice as many per 1,000 residents as Surprise and five times as many per 1,000 residents as Peoria. Statistics provided by Phoenix Fire Department. The number of engine responses to 911 emergencies — referred to as the call or run volume — for June was 992 for a lean fleet of only four units! That puts a lot of wear and tear on those vehicles.
Thankfully, passing of the 2018 bond helped replace most of aging vehicles with smaller and lighter engines. Nevertheless, according to Tony Van Roekel, battalion chief, SCFMD Resources Division, the high call volume is the main contributor of the wear-and-tear to the fire engines. The necessary maintenance expense has been helped by hiring a full-time mechanic. He travels to stations to do minor repairs and maintenance. Where larger jobs are necessary, an agreement with Buckeye Valley Fire District enables him to use their shop.
Specialties, like electronics and hydraulics, are farmed out to specialists. The in-house mechanic saves money and minimizes idle time, to keep the lean fleet in good working order.
However, there is one engine that needs replacement. A ladder tender — an alternate to the aerial ladder — was purchased in 2006 and is beyond refurbishment. The replacement’s purchase estimate is $600,000, already 20% higher than the 2021 quote!
For a small department with a total budget of about $13 million, where 80% is for personnel, new vehicle purchases are a challenge. The Sun City Fire District Auxiliary has a goal to raise money to supplement some of that cost. How much the Auxiliary can contribute to this new engine will depend on the success of its fall fund drive.
Phil Griswold is Sun City Fire and Medical Department Auxiliary board president.