Houston Mesa Fire Department
"In Arizona's Beautiful Mogollon Rim Country"

Houston Mesa Fire General Information

The Houston Mesa Fire District is located in the mountains of central Arizona, in northern Gila County, just northeast of the Town of Payson. The District's fire department provides fire protection and first-response emergency medical services to the communities of Mesa del Caballo and Wonder Valley/Freedom Acres, operating one municipal-type fire engine (ICS Type 1 Engine), one water tanker truck (ICS Type 3S Water Tender), and a small brush fire truck (ICS Type 6 Engine) out of one fire station. All vehicles are modern and well-equipped. All personnel are volunteers, with the exception of the Fire Chief, who is a paid employee. The department responds to approximately 100 calls per year, 60% being medical in nature.

The department is dispatched via radio and pagers by the Town of Payson Police/Fire/9-1-1 Communications Center, a modern facility which uses Enhanced 9-1-1 telephone technology and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) equipment, and dispatches six area fire departments with a total of thirteen stations. The central dispatch system is complemented by an area-wide automatic aid agreement, which has been in place for many years, which basically means that everyone works off of the same radio system and responds back and forth as needed to assist each other?.just like one big fire department. For the HMFD, this means that instead of having to operate like a stand-alone fire department, the HMFD enjoys the luxury of being able to operate more like an engine company station in a larger agency. Although the HMFD's first-due district (or primary service area) is not very large, and is comprised entirely of single-family homes in a wildland/urban interface environment, the HMFD's central location means that 30 percent of the department's calls are to back up other area fire departments. The HMFD's First Alarm automatic aid district spans a wide area, covering much of the north half of the nearby Town of Payson, and includes such target hazards as a Home Depot store, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, and the local airport. The HMFD's automatic aid area for Second Alarms is even bigger, covering a large portion of northern Gila County. And it also means that the HMFD runs a higher percentage of fire-related calls than many other departments do.

As a part of the automatic aid system, administered by the Northern Gila County Fire Chiefs (NGCFC) group, all area departments participate in a standardized numbering system, with all apparatus using three-digit numbers. The first digit indicates the department, the second the station, and the third the unit. Thus the HMFD's fire station is Station 31??third department, first station. The ICS Type 1 engine runs as Engine 311?..third department, first station, first engine. The water tender (ICS Type 3) runs as Water Tender 311 for the same reason. Most of the small brush trucks, the ICS Type 6 engines, use a six as their last digit, so the brush truck runs as Engine 316?..third department, first station, Type 6 engine. The Chief Officer in charge of any department at the time uses the radio designation Battalion?..so the HMFD Chief normally will operate as Battalion 3.

Throughout the NGCFC's automatic aid area, the standard First Alarm dispatch for a structure fire in rural areas with no fire hydrant coverage is three engines, three water tenders, and two Chief Officers. In HMFD's district, this normally will be Houston Mesa Engine 311, Payson Engine 121, Beaver Valley engine 911, Houston Mesa Water Tender 311, Payson Water Tender 111, Beaver Valley Water Tender 911, Houston Mesa Battalion 3, and Beaver Valley Battalion 9. This adds up to approximately 20 firefighters and 10,000 gallons of water. A Second Alarm will double that, and additional water tenders or other units can be special-called as needed, including aerial ladders, a light/air support truck, and a volunteer rehab unit with their own bus for long-duration incidents.