Since 2004 the Unified Fire Authority in Salt Lake County has been serving cities that don’t have their own fire departments. Friday, for the first time, a city ended its contract with UFA and started its own fire department.
Draper’s brand new fire department begins serving the city at a risky time. It’s hot, dry, and firework season is just beginning.
“All you have to do is turn on the news each night and see that we’re in a challenging time in terms of the fire season,” says Clint Smith, Draper’s new fire chief.
Despite the danger, Smith feels the 37 full-time employees of the new fire department are ready.
Draper has miles of mountainside interface, which worries Smith and other city officials around the July holidays. Most of the city is firework-restricted. The new chief hopes that will be enough to prevent a disaster.
“We want (residents) to enjoy their holidays,” Smith says. “But we ask them to be safe and smart and to adhere to those restrictions. That will help keep everybody safe.”
Draper Mayor Troy Walker says he had no complaints about the service provided by Unified Fire. He’s been advocating for the city’s first fire department for nearly a decade. Last summer the city council voted to reevaluate its contract with UFA.
“I don’t know how many mayors get a chance to start their own fire department, but it’s sure been a pleasure,” Walker says. “We have an amazing staff. So, I’m excited.”
The new fire department’s operating costs are roughly the same amount the city has been paying for fire and ambulatory contracts with the county, about $5.5 million.
Walker says the city has been putting aside money for years and was able to purchase two brand new fire engines. A third engine and other equipment was purchased from Unified Fire.