Operating on a shoestring budget, holding bake sales to raise a few bucks and always on the lookout for volunteers, the Valle-Wood Volunteer Fire Department has never had things easy. But the commitment to provide emergency services to the small community between Williams, Flagstaff and Grand Canyon has always been a priority for the folks who take on the responsibility.
Area firefighters train in Valle a few years ago. The Valle-Wood Volunteer Fire Department hosted the training session, burning two structures.
Just recently, the fire department received good news by being awarded a $62,479 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Fire Administration. Of that amount, $56,232 comes from the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant with a 10-percent match of $6,247 to come from the fire department.
"This is an incredible opportunity for our volunteer department to obtain this essential equipment and tools to do our job safely and expediently," said Roger Miller, president of the fire department’s board. "We anticipate other benefits, too, such as helping us attract more volunteer firefighters now that we will have the OSHA-required PPE (personal protective equipment), providing better mutual aid to surrounding fire departments like Tusayan and allowing us to participate more fully in interdepartmental training exercises."
The grant money must be used to purchase specific items, including equipment like turnouts, helmets, boots and self-contained breathing apparatus, commonly called SCBAs by firefighters. The department also plans to purchase a new pair of hydraulic spreaders, also known as the "jaws of life," which are used to extract car-accident victims.
"All of our PPE and SCBA are hand-me downs from other fire departments who replaced theirs with current models," said Larry Doering, fire chief. "None are really up to code for going into buildings, but it’s all we have so that’s what we use. This grant will bring our PPE up to date."
The jaws of life apparatus is on loan to the department from the state. The grant will allow the local volunteers to purchase their own.
The grant represents the largest ever awarded to the volunteer department. Other grants have been awarded in smaller amounts. Miller and his wife Grace spend around 150 hours writing the grant, including a trip to Phoenix for a grant-writing seminar. Other organizations often hire professional grant writers at $20 an hour for such services.
In the grant application, Miller said he included details such as the fact that the department receives no money from taxes and needs to survive on donations, while the area serves as a pass-through point for tourists heading to the Grand Canyon.
The fire department averages 45 calls per year with an average of 26 of those being motor-vehicle accidents. So far this year, there have been only 15 calls, but Miller said that usually picks up during the winter months.
In the future, the volunteers expect to only get busier with development popping up along the highway in the Valle and Woodland Ranch areas. The department’s service area includes 15 miles north and 15 miles south of Valle on State Route 64 and 20 miles along U.S. 180 southeast of Valle.
The fire department has already started knocking on doors to raise the needed money to match the grant. No purchases can be made until the locals raise their share. As of last week, the Grand Canyon Lions Club had made a $625 donation, another offering came in from Open Any Car Door and a private source gave $2,000. That leaves less than $4,000 that needs to be raised.
"The way it works is you have approximately one year from notification to spend the money, but they recommend you get your matching funds right away because it takes them a while to send you the money," Miller said. "We’re looking at a month or two getting in as much as possible."
Because the fire department had to cancel its Fourth of July celebration this summer, the group has also been trying to raise money just to cover operating expenses. There are bake sales planned for Thanksgiving and Christmas and a crafts bazaar may be in the works.
"At a time when getting the money for a bare-bones operations is increasingly hard to do, we now need to raise addition funds to finish making this dream a reality," Miller said. "We were unable to have our traditional fireworks fund-raiser this summer because of the extreme fire danger. In spite of that we have raised some of the matching grant money needed and have already received some donations for the cause."
Miller said the department is appealing to all residents, businesses and community groups in the areas of Valle, Tusayan, Williams and Grand Canyon to donate to the cause.
"We are here not just for the people of the Valle area, but for the traveling public and local travelers as well," Miller said.
Miller thanks all those who have supported the volunteer department in the past and added that he hopes they can continue to improve their emergency services in the future.
For those who can help with a donation, send it to: Valle-Wood Fire Department Inc., HCR 34 Box 22, Valle/Williams, AZ 86046.