Staying yellow all these years in Sun City

They would stand out at night

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There was always an assumption that the mistake in not installing fire hydrants between Grand Avenue and Peoria Avenue would be corrected.

Del Webb Development Company, Sun City Water and Rural Metro Fire officials met long before the first hydrant was paid for by Sun City resident H.K. Murphy and neighbors, and installed in July 1965. Agreement was reached that Sun City fire hydrants would be painted yellow. The decision was premised on the belief yellow was highly visible at night. That decision of 45 years ago remains a constant.

Mr. Murphy’s hydrant sparked a flurry of related activity. George Meade, Sun City Home Owners Association’s Fire Hydrant Study Committee chairman, promoted the topic from “study” to “urgent.” By September 1965, meetings with DEVCO, Rural Metro and Sun City Water officials produced a tentative plan for 48 additional hydrants. Local newspapers urged residents in the 48 areas to organize following Mr. Murphy’s plan. DEVCO officials submitted the group’s plan to the Arizona Fire Ratings Board for preliminary approval, which came in December 1965 and final approval in February 1966.

With the plan’s approval in place, Mr. Meade announced his SCHOA committee had researched a method of financing, buying and installing the hydrants at no cost to residents. To secure funding required approval of forming a volunteer fire district for Sun City. SCHOA officials called for volunteers to carry petitions and gather signatures from residents. Arizona law required two different petitions. The first petition required that 10% of all residents sign requesting an election be conducted to vote on the issue. The second petition required signatures from more than 50% of the owners of property in the proposed district indicating support. Signatures were easy to acquire. Petitions were filed with Maricopa County, and the county supervisors approved a vote schedule for June 7, 1966.

The prediction of overwhelming support was validated as 94% of the 1,455 voters favored forming the district. Mr. Meade had discovered an Arizona statute that volunteer fire departments were eligible to receive a substantial rebate annually for license plate fees paid by owners of cars, trucks, RVs and boats. Based on average fees paid, it was estimated Sun City’s new district would receive $30,000 the first year after forming. The estimate was low, as it was based on average fees paid. Sun City residents licensed Cadillacs, Lincolns and expensive RVs in disproportionate numbers, which substantially increased the reimbursement.

Within days after the vote of approval to establish the Sun City Volunteer Fire Department, SCHOA called for an organizational meeting. Law required departments be run by a five person board of directors. Mr. Meade was a popular choice when appointed to the position of Sun City’s first Fire Chief. The other four board members were also SCHOA representatives.

The Board immediately convened and by unanimous consent submitted a request July 1 to Maricopa County to be recognized and thus eligible for the funds distributed to volunteer departments. The county supervisors had already conducted their June meeting but authorized a special emergency meeting with the single item being approval of Sun City’s request. The deadline was met, and the distribution was made.

As soon as the check cashed, the new fire board met with Sun City Water officials and authorized installation of 100 hydrants between Grand and Peoria avenues. The water company promised installation would start within 30 days of a contract being settled. Sun City Water would not charge for either purchase or installation of the hydrants, but it was agreed that an annual “maintenance fee” would be charged to the district annually. The plan was to have 70 hydrants installed by the end of 1966 with the other 40 installed in early 1967. 

It all started with Mr. Murphy. A little more than one year later, the problem was well on its way to a successful conclusion.

However, the hydrant installation was but the first step. Mr. Meade and his board met with Rural Metro officials immediately and learned that their goal of having fire protection for all residents by communitywide contract was not feasible until the fire hydrants were installed. Those were the terms dictated by Rural Metro officials. Mr. Meade and his board turned their full attention to fire hydrants until the project’s conclusion and urged residents to continue paying Rural Metro the $12 fee for service until a contract for all was in place.

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