Sun City Fire District History
Fire protection for Sun City began in the early 1960's when the Del E. Webb Corporation first began building homes. In those early years each homeowner interested in having fire protection service would enter into an annual "subscription" with a local fire protection company and pay that company a fee based on property values. This subscription entitled the property owner to unlimited fire protection and emergency service protection. Non-subscribers were assessed service fees based on hourly manpower and fire apparatus charges as well as a base service charge. Limited first aid service was also available from the fire protection company.
On June 23, 1966 the Sun City Fire District was established under Arizona law (Title 48, Chapter 5) after an affirmative vote by the electors of Sun City and an order by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The original district, which covered Sun City only south of Grand Avenue, has since been enlarged by five separate annexations to include all areas from Olive Avenue on the south to Beardsley Road on the north. Under fire district law, a board of citizens is elected to govern the district. The board elected in 1966 entered into a master contract with the private fire protection company to cover the entire community. This eliminated the fire subscription fee program.
The largest and most destructive fire in Sun City occurred on February 15, 1972. The Lakes Club on Thunderbird Boulevard was nearing completion when a plumber using a blowtorch accidentally ignited combustible materials within a wall. The fire traveled within the wall spreading to the attic and went unnoticed for a period of time. The sprinkler system was not yet completed and was ineffective in controlling the fire. The local fire equipment and mutual aid companies from the surrounding area could do little to save the building. The fire loss was set at $1,000,000.
Fire district board members were concerned after the Lakes Club fire and reviewed the fire protection program, manpower, apparatus and fire station locations provided by the private contractor. This review led the Fire Board to take the following actions:
- The district purchased two pumpers each capable of large volumes of water (1250 & 1500 gallons per minute respectively) in late 1972.
- The district, with the support of the Del Webb Corp., opened a fire station at 99th Avenue & Bell Road in 1973.
- The district purchased a 100 ft. Aerial truck in 1975.
- The district, again with the support of the Del Webb Corp., opened a second station at 99th Avenue & Sun City Boulevard in late September 1975.
- The district purchased a third pumper in early 1976.
These actions placed the district in the position of owning all the firefighting equipment and stations necessary to operate their own department excluding personnel. A contract was maintained by the district with the private fire protection company to furnish manpower and management services until 1989.
On September 16, 1988 the Sun City Fire District Board voted to complete the last phase of operating its own fire department by hiring their own personnel. At 8:00a.m. on January 1, 1989 firefighters reported to duty for the first time as direct employees of the fire district. On this date the Sun City Fire District also began providing emergency services to the Town on Youngtown and the Youngtown Police Department provided 9-1-1 dispatch services to Sun City, both under separate contracts.
On January 10, 1990 the Sun City Fire Department joined a consortium of fire departments and entered into an automatic aid program with Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, Tempe, Tolleson, Laveen and Daisy Mountain. Under automatic aid, dispatching computers select the closest available fire, rescue and or paramedic units without regard of jurisdictional boundaries. Participating in automatic aid reduced average response times to less than four minutes.
1990 also marked the beginning of a fire department based paramedic program. With fire stations geographically distributed throughout the community, a fire department paramedic response averages only 3 minutes 45 seconds.
The most recent chapter in district history occurred with the purchase and refurbishment of the fire station located at 111th Avenue and Windsor Drive. In September 1992 the district purchased the station property from a private owner who had been indirectly leasing the station to the department. On November 6, 1993 the remodeled and refurbished station was dedicated to the citizens of our community.
The Sun City Fire District itself was formed on June 16, 1966 and is now one of the busiest of the 150+ fire districts in Arizona, averaging 14,000 emergency calls per year.