by Dennis B. Light, City of Prescott Fire Chief
Established in March 1885, the City of Prescott Fire Department is known as the oldest within the State of Arizona. Steeped in tradition, the members and community work hard to respect the heritage such an honor holds. That said, little-to-nothing – aside from the name – really has remained the same as it was back then.
Aside from advances in equipment, many, if not all, the nation’s fire services remained pretty much the same well into the 1950s. Prescott’s Fire Department was no different. However, with the 1950s, and in the aftermath of World War II, came the urbanization of communities. More and more folks migrated out of the country and into the city. All of a sudden “company towns” were a distant memory, and with their departure the ability to muster an “all-volunteer fire service” became a distant memory. Those facts, combined with insurance company changes to underwriting practices, resulted in a primarily “all-career service” being born.
Today’s fire service is much different from the one established some 132 years ago, here in Prescott. Most certainly we still identify with our brand of being a fire department, but the proportion of effort spent combating fires has been on the decline for many years. As such, we have morphed into what is often referred to as an “all-hazards/all-risks” model. A fire department is typically mandated by its city or district to respond to all emergencies. That includes not only fires, but trail and technical rescues, hazardous materials emergencies, and frequently, emergency medical service (EMS) calls, as well. As a result, the City of Prescott Fire Department has made adjustments to its brand to accommodate changes in our community.
With the popular television series “Emergency,” which showcased paramedics Johnny Gage, played by Randolph Mantooth, and Roy DeSoto, played by Kevin Tighe, a new market niche for Prescott Fire Department came into view. Each week, as these actors brought characters to life inside people’s homes, the community shared in a greater desire to offer prehospital emergency medical services and care.
Today, Prescott Fire provides advanced life support, first-responder response by a combination of paramedic and emergency medical technicians. These resources, combined with those of Life Line Ambulance, or in some instances, Native Air Life Flight Helicopters, along with our automatic aid partners with Central Arizona Fire and Medical, work to provide the best chance of survival for those suffering from a medical or trauma event.
This evolution of the fire department continued then, and it continues today.
In addition to emergency medical service and fire response, the Prescott Fire Department in conjunction with our automatic aid partners, is capable of responding to technical rescues, hazardous materials, weapons of mass destruction, downed power lines, automobile crashes and a vast array of other types of emergencies. So, in effect, the Prescott Fire Department lives up to the theme song popularized by the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters” by being, “Who you gonna call?”
This continuous evolution is not one that was put together haphazardly, or without great attention to detail. What you see, through decades of refinement, is a service model delivered by highly educated and credentialed professionals, which has given us a system that is both efficient and effective toward meeting our community’s needs.