Since the first of the year through mid-July, over 930 wildfires have burned parts of Arizona. These fires are devastating to the people and wildlife, and can take a heavy toll on the courageous firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect their communities.
What people may not be fully aware of is how underfunded many fire facilities are. So, the team at Hanna Shea Executive Search made its Every Quarter Counts donation to the Groom Creek Fire District (GCFD) in Prescott, AZ, a small city (and considered a popular vacation getaway spot) about one hundred miles north of Phoenix.
In September, the Johnson Fire in Prescott hit close to home for Hanna Shea CEO Sean Eggert, as his family cabin was just miles away from the flames. Eggert scoped out his property after the emergency announcement and was relieved to find the GCFD was able to contain the fire with minimal damage and no harm done to any buildings or homes.
This isn’t always the case for many wildfires — the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire not only burned 8,400 acres and destroyed over one hundred buildings, it also killed 19 brave members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots interagency of the Prescott Fire Department. The families, communities and the state of Arizona endured such a shattering loss, which was deeply felt across the country.
This and many other horrific wildfire situations are often unavoidable and dangerously difficult to control. The fire staff and teams work tirelessly to maintain their training and their equipment to stay alert and ready for the next unexpected situation.
Unfortunately though, many fire departments like GCFD are challenged with a shoestring budget to provide proper training and resources for the fire crews. GCFD is always seeking out new and certified recruits, but at the same time, keeping the members skilled-up and building upon their expertise can be difficult if the dollars aren’t there to support their efforts.
GCFD Fire Chief Ernesto Manzanedo stated that because of the 2008 recession, GCFD was unable to continue offering scholarships and lost about 60% of its annual budget. This greatly affected the members as the scope of practice has expanded from grappling with structures to now working with hazardous materials and managing wildlands.
“We need to bolster our training program and get our guys as much training as possible.” — Chief Manzanedo
“A lot of rescues require technical abilities but that requires intense training, which is time-consuming and costly — and it can be difficult to find these programs nearby.” Chief Manzanedo also added that they often have to send their team members down to Phoenix for additional training, including extensive emergency medical services, pharmaceuticals, cadaver skills, etc.
On top of the training needs, the GCFD must also maintain their trucks and equipment to ensure everything is operating properly at all times. Replacing or refurbishing machinery and facilities, again, requires training and is yet another line item of the financial reporting.
But regardless of the limitations the GCFD members may experience, they are very involved and highly relied upon by the community. Not only are they often in the thick of many wildland fires and rescues, they also partner closely with wildlife and forest organizations to expand their knowledge, and they are the first stop for the general population to obtain resources, updates and overall community announcements.
The crew also makes a point to be available and provide their resources to many of the other wildfires that are disrupting the neighboring areas and states, including the current destruction in California (Maria, Kincade, Easy, Getty, etc.). Chief Manzanedo said, “We’re here to support our all fire services families at all times. As horrific as these wildfires are, it’s also an indispensable real-life training for the team — these guys get first-hand fire experience and a lot of leadership experience.”
After learning more about the GCFD team and how they overcome certain challenges on a daily basis, it was clear to Eggert and the Hanna Shea team that their Every Quarter Counts donation was much appreciated and, most importantly, will be put to good use towards training and personnel. The contribution came as a surprise to Chief Manzanedo and his team. “We want the community to know we are grateful for all the support. Every fire service deals with budget issues, but we know just how much the community relies on us, which keeps us going no matter how many obstacles we may face,” he said.
As these men and women continue to protect the homes and lives of the community, please consider supporting GCFD to ensure they can uphold all aspects of their responsibilities and keep us safe. Donate to the Groom Creek Fire District.