Rain poured through the roof of the old Black Canyon, Arizona, fire station, making the floor slippery and rusting the tin that covered the roof. Nonetheless, the one ambulance and fire truck that would fit into the aging metal shed still faired better than the other five vehicles parked outside. Those vehicles were not only pelted by rain and hail, but Arizona’s scorching sun baked them during much of the year—rotting the tires, fading the paint, and drying out the parts and equipment. Parking the vehicles outside also meant that the theft risk was greater, which increased insurance rates.
A dilapidated trailer from the 70s was parked next to the shed. Three bunk beds were crammed into the small bedroom for use by fire crews. “It’s hard to recruit firefighters when they have to be housed in those conditions,” said Fire Chief Tom Birch.
On January 21, a large crowd gathered to officially cut the ribbon for a new fire station for Black Canyon City. The new building has plenty of room—which means that all of the Department’s vehicles can be parked inside. It also has office space, a reception area, kitchen and three bunk rooms. The total project cost was $1.5 million. USDA Rural Development funded over half of that total. The Fire Department and their long list of building fund contributors made up the difference. That list of community supporters took two full pages of small type to list in the grand opening program.
Chief Birch was joined at the ceremony by Fire District Board Members past and present, and the contractor and architect for the new facility. Also on hand were Arizona State Director of USDA Rural Development Alan Stephens, Bureau of Land Management District Manager Angelita Bulletts, Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman and USDA Community Programs Director Leonard Gradillas.
“Because of the distances involved in this rural area, our volunteers are required to be here at the station during their shifts,” said Birch. “Morale has soared since we got the new station.”
There are lots of other pluses with the new fire station. The station is built on land close to the interstate for rapid deployment, and because the vehicles can be parked inside, BCCVFD was upgraded to a Class 5 insurance rating—significant because that means lower rates which get passed along to their customers.
Three days after Chief Birch and his crew moved into the new fire station, they were called upon to help with a fire in the brush land to the north. “We had a call from the State Forester asking if we could help by providing a pre-stage location for their rapid-response team,” said Birch. “There would have been no way we could have provided that kind of support and assistance before,” he added. “We had the space to be able to accommodate the equipment and the personnel. Our efforts helped ensure that the brush fire did not become a bigger disaster.”
To find out more about how USDA’s Community Facilities Programs can help your community, click here.