Members of the North Hidden Valley Volunteer Fire Department pay to protect 25 square miles of Pinal County out of their own pockets and through fundraisers.
Chuck Millar is chief of the department, and S.L. “Shotzy” Rimek assistant chief.
“Essentially, we’re in an area with no fire protection at all, and most of Pinal County is that way,” Millar said. “We agreed as a community that we needed some kind of fire protection. Without a dedicated area, the city wouldn’t come out to help much, so we decided to form our own.”
Millar said the group went to the State Fire Marshal’s Office and requested a designated area eight years ago. They now protect 25 square miles in western Pinal County.
“We respond to fires only. We do not have medical support. We have to rely on Ak-Chin typically, or the city, to cover that in this area,” Millar said.
The department has five trucks, about 20 firefighters – half of whom live in Maricopa – and a firehouse, located at Millar Airport, 53510 W McDavid Road.
The department averages 20 to 25 calls per year, Millar estimates. He said calls can be minor, such as a smoke alarm going off, while others can be a fully-engulfed structure fire.
North Hidden Valley Fire Department is completely volunteer-run and gets no funding from city or state governments. The department protects areas west of Maricopa, and there are no fire hydrants in that area. Firefighters fight fires only with the water they can bring with them.
“It’s all funded by our own people. We don’t have any public money. We’re not a fire district, so we don’t have any taxing authority,” he said. “Most is paid out of the pockets of firefighters. We don’t charge any fees to the residents.”
North Hidden Valley Volunteer Fire Department has a mutual aid agreement with Ak-Chin, Thunderbird and Stanfield.
Volunteer firefighters from the department were at Maricopa Meadows during the Maricopa Open Disc Golf Tournament in January selling water to players and spectators as a fundraiser. They used the funds to help pay building and upkeep costs of a new training structure that has been donated to them by Milky Way Dairy.
The department has training and maintenance meetings monthly. They do mutual training with Thunderbird and Ak-Chin Fire Departments. Millar said it helps all departments when they cross-train together.
Josh Bush has been a NHVFD firefighter for only four months, yet he already understands the importance of their mission.
“I’m new to it, but I’m trying to do as much as I can to help them out,” Bush said. “Every month we have training, so everyone can get their FF1 and FF2 firefighter credentials. We’ve learned a lot about venting roofs and putting holes in walls and roofs to help alleviate heat from a burning building.”
He said the volunteers get together to perform maintenance on their trucks on a regular basis.
“Most of them are old Air Force and military firefighting vehicles. We make sure everyone knows how to drive them and operate the pumps. We do basic maintenance to make sure we’re not driving out a broken truck,” Bush said.
Without any government funding, the volunteers pay the fire department bills by having fundraisers and even out their own pockets.
“There is a need for something. I don’t think a lot of people realize, everybody on that side of the Hidden Valley area relies on our fire department to do be there to fix things if there is a fire,” Bush said. “There are no fire hydrants out there that can provide water for a burning building. There is no ability for other fire departments to get out there in time. It is a community service,” Bush said.
This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.