Slowly rebounding home values and tax caps are squeezing fire districts statewide, officials say. And without higher taxes, they warn that emergency-response times will rise, putting at risk more than 1.5 million Arizonans.
Fire district chiefs have begun a Save our Fire Districts campaign to convince state lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey to loosen the tax limits. On Thursday, they pleaded their case to a joint legislative study committee.
"We've had a couple of fires in Sun City that we didn't have any of our fire units respond on because they were all busy," Sun City fire district Chief Michael Thompson said, "which means it was a longer response time for units from elsewhere to get there."
Arizona's 156 fire districts provide emergency medical and fire services to communities not covered by city fire departments. They are funded by local property taxes, but are limited in how much they can tax.