Local fire district has accomplished much in seven years since inception

Though they were established as a fire district seven years ago, the Tusayan department's main mission has been responding to medical emergencies, particularly on State Route 64.

"Medical is what fire does anymore," said Chief Robbie Evans. "If you don't do medical, it's real hard to justify your existence. If we just did fire, we'd just be sitting in the station. Our claim to fame is motor vehicle accidents. We're good at that. We train at that all the time."

Taxpayers voted to establish the district in 1999. That first year, they responded to 18 calls over six months. Last year, they had 259 runs, and so far this year, the call volume has been ahead of last year's by about a month. The majority of them were medical.

Evans said that's why he advocated for ALS capability in the department. He and EMS Coordinator Lora Pitsinger were both ALS certified in March.

The department is also growing into their new building, which they occupied in the fall of 2003. They have two full-time employees ­ Evans and Pitsinger, and two part-timers ­ Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Baker and a rookie. About half are EMT certified and 15 are certified firefighters.

The department's budget is over $200,000. That's been supplemented with a number of grants that enabled them to purchase a thermal imaging camera, training materials, extrication equipment and a compressor fill station for their air tanks.

Last year, the department also acquired a Lifepak 12, a defibrillator and monitor that tracks a patient's vital signs, provides 12 different views of the heart, provides data in conjuction with administration of drugs and can transmit data over telephone lines.

"It has all the bells and whistles," said Evans. "It makes it real easy when you're on a bad scene.

While emergency service is the department's staple, this year, there is a lot of emphasis on fire.

"Everyone in the state is just paranoid right now," said Evans of the fire danger. "I've been in Arizona 14 years and I've never seen it this dry."

The department hopes to bolster their structural fire abilities with a 75-foot aerial truck that can get firefighters on every roof in Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village.

To prepare for the wildland season, Evans said that the departments in the region have been coordinating to make sure they can communicate with one another.

"Tusayan, Parks, Bellmont, Williams, Sherwood Forest, Junipine and Kaibab Estates, a bunch of the fire departments in western Coconino County ­ we have our own little wildland group," Evans said. "We've been trying to make sure that we all get on the same page with everything."

They got together for a table-top exercise last Wednesday, to identify potential issues, review the community evacuation plan and ensure that all local contact information is up to date.

Some of the crew have wildland experience and are wildland certified. He has also sent two others to wildland fire academy in Prescott.

"Some of these guys had been on the Rodeo-Chedeski," Evans said. "We have a bunch of guys with wildland certification. We have a bunch more with basic wildland training and two who are going to engine boss class. They also has two pump trucks ready to fight wildland fire.

For the department, fire season never really ended.

"We've never taken the wildland completely off," Evans said. "Around Christmas, there was a campfire at Ten-X. We shouldn't be out there in Decemer putting out grass fires."

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