Four cities to pool firefighting resources
Metro Fire Agency: The 'hybrid' plan will be about sharing and will retain municipalities' autonomy
By Cathy McKitrick
The Salt Lake Tribune




What's next:

l The new Metro Fire Agency will be officially unveiled Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. in Sandy City Hall, 10000 S. Centennial Parkway.

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Fire departments in four Salt Lake Valley cities - Sandy, South Jordan, South Salt Lake and West Valley City - are banding together to form the Metro Fire Agency.
"It's a hybrid. There's none other like it in the United States," agency spokesman Steve Foote said Tuesday. "We're reconstructing how we deliver service and will achieve a new level of cooperation."
The agency differs from Salt Lake County's Unified Fire Authority - which acts as a single fire department serving several municipalities and unincorporated areas - because each of the group's municipal fire departments will retain its autonomy.
"We'll have all the advantages of cooperation, but it still leaves each city in control of its own fire department," said Sandy Fire Chief Don Chase. "The biggest benefit will be sharing."
Chase recently received a combined resource list from the four departments. The agency will link more than 450 firefighters and 27 fire stations.
"The list is enormous," Chase said. "When we put it all together, we'll probably have more resources and equipment than anyone in the state."
On routine fire calls, little will change - the nearest fire department will respond, while others close by will provide backup.
However, when special operations are needed - for, say, a hazardous-material spill or a bomb scare - the agency's shared resources will pay off.
"A lot has changed over the years, requiring us to be specialists in everything from bombs to anthrax. It's hard for a staff of 80 to do that," said Chase, a 31-year veteran firefighter. "Agencywide, special operations will be much more manageable."
As a single agency, the four cities hope to see immediate and long-range benefits.
"We hope, first and foremost, to provide better economies of scale," Foote said, referring to consolidated training and the ability to make large equipment purchases as a bloc.
The agency will be governed by a board of directors, made up of either the mayor or chief executive officer from each city.
West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle will serve as the board's first chairman.
The agency also has a board of operations, which will include each municipality's fire chief.
"It's a further step along a path we've already taken," Pyle said. "We're further solidifying our relationships and should be able to save money on large purchases. We can also share specialties and consolidate some of our other ancillary operations."
At least three other valley cities - Bluffdale, Midvale and West Jordan - are considering their options, Pyle said.
The agency, a work in progress, eventually could encompass the entire valley - including the Unified Fire Authority.
"I've seen a lot of give and take over the last year that I haven't seen in my entire career," Chase said. "We've grown to the size where this metro thing can work well. Communities in the valley used to be divided by barren space but now it's much more seamless."