A study determining the feasibility of the Sun City Fire District entering into an agreement to combine resources with other entities should be ready in December, according to district officials.
Acting Fire District Chief Rob Schmitz said the district is looking at a joint powers authority with Arizona Fire & Medical Authority.
“JPA is a district entering into an agreement to combine resources but still stay as a separate entity,” Schmitz said.
Such an authority is allowed under Arizona state law that would allow the partners to share resources, and it has been used by fire districts, according to the Arizona Fire District Association’s website.
“Since the fire districts and fire departments are authorized to provide fire protection, EMS and other lifesaving services a Fire Authority, which is a (separate legal entity), may be formed to provide these services for the fire agencies that want to contract with each other,” the association stated on its website.
The Arizona Fire & Medical Authority is a “full service, all hazard fire and rescue agency providing services from twelve strategically located fire stations.” It began when the Fire District of Sun City West and the Sun Lakes and Tonopah Fire Districts formed a joint powers authority in 2017 to create the district. The Buckeye Valley Fire District joined in 2023.
Today, the authority covers 490 square miles and serves more than 75,000 residents across the Valley.
The Sun City Fire District board hired a consulting firm to study whether it is feasible to enter into a agreement with AFMA, Schmitz said.
The idea of the current study began “as a study between Sun City Fire District and Arizona Fire and Medical Authority. But when we learned that Buckeye Valley Fire District was joining the authority, it had to become a study between all three entities, because Buckeye Valley’s financial and operational data had not previously been a part of AFMA,” Schmitz said.
The district hired Chantilly, Virginia-based Emergency Services Consulting International to do the feasibility analysis.
ESCI is a consulting firm of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, according to its website.
The Sun City Fire District is a taxing entity, he said. However, if the district were to enter into the JPA, it would not increase residents’ taxes. The district currently assesses at the maximum rate allowed by state law.
"If Sun City Fire enters into the JPA, the district stays in place and so will the elected officials, but it is only to manage the tax dollars that come into the district. The money gets forwarded to the JPA to manage all of the resources and manpower," Schmitz said.