Florence House Fire Causes Heartburn for County Board


FLORENCE — Following a fire on April 19 in the Cactus Forest area south of Florence, concerns were raised by residents that no one contacted the South Florence Volunteer Fire Department.

Pinal County Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, met with more than 70 people in a Zoom call Monday evening to try to address the concerns.

The volunteer fire department had been taken off the 911 system, which is the primary reason it was not notified.

Cavanaugh said he was informed that because of licensing requirements and other factors, the department would be a liability to Pinal County.

Since no fire department responded, water was sprayed into the burning house through garden hoses.

Cavanaugh said his contention is if a person’s house is on fire, liability or not, that person wants firefighters battling the blaze.

He said some people may have called the 911 administration line to report the fire, but to be in the 911 system an exclusive line is needed.

Larry Vincent, chief of the South Florence Volunteer Fire Department, said his department has three trucks in the area and could have been on scene within 10 to 15 minutes, but they never received a call.

Cavanaugh said one way or another, this issue has to be resolved.

Third party fire companies, which charge $25 per resident, prefer more populated areas where there probably will be more fires, he said, and Vincent agreed, saying there are not enough homes in the area to justify a private fire service.

Resident Michael Coulston said he was the first one who called 911 the night of the fire, saying he was told a fire department had been dispatched.

He said the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office showed up to stop us from “doing stuff.”

He asked for a public phone number so residents would know who to call in the future. Vincent said they could call him at any time at 480-200-7749.

“If it was a fire, we would have been rolling,” Vincent said. “We were only three miles away.”

He said all 14 volunteer firefighters are on his phone speed dial, so they could be reached instantly.

Residents were concerned this would be too much of a burden on Vincent.

Vincent said, while not ideal, it would be a Band-Aid if the residents knew to contact him when there was a fire. The volunteer fire department has 14 firefighters, five trucks and can carry 5,000 gallons of water.

Coulston said once horses were evacuated that night he asked officers if the fire department was coming and was allegedly told they did not have a number for the fire department.

Resident Kassie Obregon questioned why authorities would not allow residents, who had water tanks, onto the property to help put out the fire, claiming PCSO deputies told them they were not going to allow anyone on the property.

Residents wanted to know who Sheriff Mark Lamb reports to and were told he is an elected official.

Cavanaugh said Lamb had no idea the department had been taken off the 911 system.

Cavanaugh and Vincent said they will be meeting with the sheriff on May 4 to discuss solutions and told residents it is not an open meeting for them to attend.

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