A History of the Sedona Fire District

The following history article has been compiled through the years with credit given to current and former staff members including John Conway, Pat Sullivan, Karen Hatler, Matt Shobert, Gary Johnson, and Tricia Greer.

1950s: The Turtle and the Volunteer Fire Department

Sedona, located in one of the most scenic areas of the country, is nestled at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon in north-central Arizona, uniquely straddling two counties — Coconino and Yavapai. The “red rocks” attract tourists from all over the world, and today’s Fire District is highly trained, equipped, and ready to respond. However, back in the early days, residents in Sedona were concerned about their small town’s need for fire protection. In the late 1940s, the newly organized Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber of Commerce put out a fire bucket for contributions to a “Firefighting Fund.” A grand total of $40.44 was collected! Not discouraged, they appointed Carl Richards as the first “unofficial” fire chief in 1950. [MORE]

1960s: The New District & EMT Services

In October 1960, the Red Rock Fire District was formed, spearheaded by the newly formed Red Rock Taxpayers’ Association, and the county line quandary was partially resolved. The Yavapai County district consisted of Fire Chief Jack Wager, a secretary/treasurer, and 11 volunteers. The two districts drew up a mutual aid agreement that allowed them to legally cross the county line to work as a team. Red Rock Fire District built its first two-bay station on land donated by a development company in Grasshopper Flats on Harmony Drive. They were also given the “Turtle,” which they used until 1964 when their new American LaFrance pumper was delivered. [MORE]

The 1970s: A New Station & Trained Firefighters

In 1971, an agreement was worked out with the Forest Service, Imperial Properties, and Coconino County for 1 acre of land for the new county complex on Forest Road (where the old Sedona Oak Creek Station #1, the jail, and the judge’s office were located). Because the State had placed a limit on the amount a fire district could budget, Sedona-Oak Creek found itself with a problem. They needed to complete the station before the old one was moved, but the cost to construct the new station was more than they could budget and the district could not carry forward a debt. [MORE]

1980s: The 9-1-1 System, a Prestigious Award, and Adopting a Fire Code

A giant step forward was made in 1980 with the installation of the 9-1-1 system. All of Sedona’s emergency telephones were finally consolidated into one. The public had an easy number to remember, providing the opportunity for better emergency service. The educational campaign for “Dial 9-1-1” was high priority. 1980 saw the development of an Emergency Services Agreement stipulating all ALS personnel fall under the medical direction of their base hospital. Fire districts were not allowed to govern themselves by law, but could prepare their own budgets, approve expenditures, and write checks, which had previously been done by the County Board of Supervisors. Red Rock also officially changed their name to Sedona-Red Rock. [MORE]

1990s: New Regulations, Major Organizational Changes, & the Regional Communications Center

William J. “Bill” Pritchard, Jr., a Volunteer Deputy Chief, was appointed Fire Chief in 1990. He had joined Sedona-Oak Creek as a volunteer in 1974, following in the fire service tradition of his family. During his tenure, the third phase of Station #1 was completed and Station #5 was remodeled and expanded. When Chief Pritchard was appointed, there were four career firefighter/medics. Pritchard streamlined the department into four major divisions and added an Assistant Chief for each: John Conway, Administration and Community Services; Gitti Silven, Emergency Medical Services; Jim Elmer, Fire and Logistics; and Bill Jackson, Support Services. After Chief Silven retired in 1993, Paul Coe joined the team as EMS Chief. Meanwhile, the full-time staff — for both administrative and operations — was growing rapidly. [MORE]

2000s: Historic Fires, Floods, & Major Expansion

SFD Battalion Chief Dan Wills was deployed to New York City in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Chief Wills went to New York as a member of the Southwest Interagency Incident Management Team to assist at “Ground Zero” – the 16 acres of rubble formerly known as the World Trade Center. He was assigned to the Logistics Section as a Communications Unit Leader. His primary responsibilities were to establish and maintain all types of communications equipment, as well as manage the Incident Communications Center. Chief Wills said what would definitely stay with him is the sense of patriotism that all the workers and residents of New York City felt during that tragic time. [MORE]

2010s: Board Shakeups, the Largest Fire in Sedona History, & the Closing of the Regional Communications Center

Twenty-four SFD members met on October 6, 2010, to participate in a strategic thinking and navigation session. Dedicated to the success of the organization and reaffirming its commitment to the provision of excellent service, participants focused attention on strengths and challenges. New mission, vision, and value statements were generated and approved by the Fire Board on February 23, 2011. Also in 2010, SFD continued regional dispatching for 10 agencies; SFD was the only fire agency in Arizona operating a primary 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point. The Center handled a total of 31,502 9-1-1 calls that year. [MORE]