A budget crisis is forcing firefighters to downsize their operations in Prescott, and that could lead to longer response times.
Nearly every day, Prescott Fire Station 73, near the airport, has what's called a brownout. The station's main engine sits idle because there's not enough staff. Instead, two firefighters run medical calls in a smaller rescue truck.
“The majority of our calls don't require a full-size fire truck,” said Prescott Fire Marshal Don Devendorf. “The only problem is, when you need a fire truck, only a fire truck will do.”
Prescott fire officials say the city froze three vacant jobs at the beginning of the year because of budget troubles, especially skyrocketing pension costs. Three other firefighters have recently left the small department, and two are on extended medical leave. The combined effect means the department can’t fully staff all five fire stations on most days.
Devendorf days the department hasn’t had a working structure fire in the brownout station yet, but he says “it’s a matter of time” and “no one can tell when.”
Former city councilman Charlie Arnold now works with “Yes for Prescott,” which is collecting signatures for a November ballot proposal to increase sales taxes in the City of Prescott. The increased revenue, $8.1 million, would mostly pay for police and fire services.
“Nobody wants to be a proponent of a sales tax, but it’s our only option to get Prescott back on the right foot,” Arnold said.
Arnold, who lives near Fire Station 73, says continuing brownouts “puts our community at risk.”