All in a days work: Tusayan Fire finds it’s groove in rural Arizona
TUSAYAN, Ariz. — The Tusayan Fire Department (TFD) has to deal with many different things in their daily operation, more than they might in a typical fire department elsewhere.
As part of a small gateway community, and as part of Tusayan specifically, Tusayan firefighters end up wearing a lot of hats.
Obviously of primary importance are their responsibilities as firefighters — things like emergency response, repairs and station upkeep. Because Tusayan firefighters operate in such a remote area, one that hosts millions of visitors each year, calls they respond to are of a much broader range than might be seen elsewhere.
“Departments in larger cities tend towards having specialties,” said Tusayan Fire Chief Greg Brush. “Here we have to take on a little more.”
On any given day, firefighters might be called to help with a variety of calls including road emergencies, wildfires or medical issues. This means firefighters need to be trained not only in structure and wildland firefighting but also medical and highway safety.
All of the full-time staff at Tusayan Fire have certifications in structural firefighting (a national standard) and wildland fires, as well as EMT basic training.
Additionally, Tusayan Fire is responsible for making sure all equipment is working properly and hasn’t expired (much of it expires on a yearly basis). Again, because the district is so far from an urban area, firefighters try to do as many repairs as possible on their own. To help with this, the garage at the department is equipped with a sizeable tool bench as well as several well-organized shelves.
Education is also considered an important part of their job, though it may not always take up as much time.
In addition to training, the department enjoys giving tours and welcome visitors into their building any chance they get. It’s obvious how much these people enjoy their jobs. Staff said there is a culture specific to firefighting, which will often bring other firefighting professionals to visit during their vacations. They trade patches and stories and shop talk. And again, with a location mere miles from one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, people from all over visit often. The department’s patch board is full of patches from exotic places and there are stories behind all souvenirs on their shelves including a metal helmet from France and a Korean instruction manual. Many Tusayan firefighters said that the diversity they experience in their work (in terms of both people and tasks) is one of the best aspects of the job.
Additionally, Tusayan Fire hosts a variety of classes aimed at providing valuable information to the public including CPR and first aid as well as proper deployment of fire extinguishers.
On top of all this, the fire department maintains a large number of side projects meant to generate additional funds. Necessary equipment is often expensive – a standard suit, known as Turn-outs, can cost almost $3,000 and there isn’t always a large enough budget. So Tusayan Fire makes the budget work as best they can. Applying for grants as often as they come available, selling exclusive merchandise at the end of tours and restocking a couple of soda machines donated by a local business are some ways the fire department works to help make ends meet. These methods have been successful, but they are always conscious of the time needed to keep it up.
Tusayan Fire does have help from Tusayan residents, financial and otherwise. According to the department, that is a feature inherent to the small town atmosphere. An example of this is Ann and John Cerna, who donate profits from the Wagon Wheel room in the Red Feather Inn every third Friday. Ann, along with Brenda Halverson, have been instrumental in creating the fire district they serve.