H.K. Murphy, Sun City resident on Snead Drive, took matters into his own hands to relieve his frustration over his high fire insurance premium and Sun City’s bad risk rating issued by the Arizona Fire Rating Bureau.
The community’s rating was 10 on a scale of 1-10, which translated to “no known fire protection.” The year was 1965 and the problem was twofold. There were no fire hydrants installed between Grand and Peoria avenues. Was that an oversight by Del Webb Development Company during Sun City’s first five years? The answer is both long and complicated.
The second concern of fire rate officials involved no organized fire department. Residents could sign a contract with Rural Metro Fire for $12 per year, but the contract was optional and service was minimal. From 1960 to 1962, service was provided by a single small truck and one fireman. As the population grew, Rural Metro added two more firemen and made room at their firehouse on Windsor Drive and 111th Avenue for additional equipment to be added in the future. A large majority of residents signed up for the $12 per month service fee.
Regulators were not impressed.
Mr. Murphy contacted his insurance carrier and learned that having a fire hydrant within 1,000 feet of his house would lower his risk rating from 10 to 8 automatically and save him $8 to $13 per year going forward. Mr. Murphy began dreaming of his own fire hydrant and worked to make his dream come true.
First, he contacted the local water company — Citizens Utilities of Stamford, Connecticut. They had purchased Starburst Water and Marinette Sewer from Webb. The local manager for Citizens assured Mr. Murphy that for $675 the company would sell him a fire hydrant and install it.
That was step one.
Mr. Murphy studied a neighborhood map and learned there would be 100 homes within the 1,000-foot limit if the hydrant was placed in the medium dividing 107th Avenue where it intersects with Sun City Boulevard. He contacted all 100 owners and asked if they would write check for $10. All but one owner paid their share. The hydrant was ordered and installed.
The last step for Mr. Murphy was refunding each of the 99 donors $3 from the surplus collected. He and his neighbors provided the impetus for blanketing all of Sun City with fire hydrants and organizing a community fire department to service all residents. Both happened quickly after Mr. Murphy’s hydrant appeared.
That story and how George Meade qualified for Sun City’s Hall of Fame will be revealed in the next history installment.
Visit the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum, 10801 W. Oakmont Drive, to access many wonderful stories of the early history of Sun City and Sun City West. A recent visitor to the museum asked, “Why are our fire hydrants yellow and who made that decision and why?” Some questions have surprising answers.
Admission to the museum is free. Those who become museum members have access to the “rest of the story” via special members only email, newsletters and by history classes conducted in the museum’s new addition.