The Green Valley Fire District (GVFD) in Arizona provides a wide variety of protection and emergency services to more than 40,000 residents throughout 40 square miles of suburban and rural areas. In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 73.3% of these residents were 65 years of age or older. Recognizing this high percentage of senior citizens, the GVFD called on retired community members to help with various non-emergency activities of the department.

Registering with Fire Corps in 2005, the Green Valley Fire Corps includes 25 members who provide administrative assistance as well as perform various innovative services for the GVFD. Members recently installed lock boxes for residential homes, making it easier for fire crews to access the homes during an emergency. In an article to the Green Valley News and Sun, Fire Inspector Greg Hernandez of the GVFD said, “In an emergency situation, a quick response time is critical, treatment is delayed if we have to break down your door.” The article went on to explain that homeowners keep a set of house keys inside the sturdy, 2x4-inch miniature safe, which is usually installed near the front door. Firefighters are able to open the lock box with a secured key to which only the GVFD has access. This not only saves precious time, but also money that would be spent repairing property damage caused by a forced entry.

In addition to lock box installation, GVFD’s Fire Corps volunteers help provide snake control throughout the community. This may seem like an unusual duty for a Fire Corps member or a department for that matter, but the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center reported 6,000 calls regarding bites and stings in 2006. Snakes are a common problem in the Green Valley area, and residents often call 911 if they encounter these reptiles. To ensure safety for its Fire Corps members, the GVFD’s Battalion Chief, deemed the ‘snake specialist’ by the department, trains the volunteers on proper procedures to handle and remove desert pests in various situations.

Other duties of the GVFD’s Fire Corps volunteers include clearing waste or vegetation from fire hydrants and marking the hydrants with reflective tape, which is required by the city. Administrative assistance consists of answering non-emergency phone calls, filing paperwork, and delivering interdepartmental mail. All Fire Corps members have completed approximately 20 hours of CERT training along with an additional 20 hours of specialized training which may include radio procedures, computer use, report writing, and driver operations. This training is done in-house by GVFD personnel. Fire Corps volunteers also perform 90 percent of the District’s smoke alarm installations and battery replacements for Green Valley residents.

GVFD’s Fire Chief Bill Bohling said, “Our Fire Corps members have been a great asset, saving the District time and money. The program enables us to continue providing essential services and allows our first responders to remain on the front lines. It’s a great cohesive relationship that benefits everyone – the department, the community, and the taxpayers.”

For more information about the Green Valley Fire Corps program, visit www.gvfire.org.

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