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IVINS — Two small cities in southern Utah are joining forces when it comes to firefighting, in order to keep up with growth.
It's no secret that Washington County is growing quickly. In the city of Ivins, the population has nearly doubled in the past decade and a half.
"It's just really explosive growth we've had in these communities," said Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Nelson.
Although it’s nice to experience some growth, Nelson said he saw the need for more fire protection coverage.
"We realize we need more equipment, more personnel, so it's always a catch-up game," he said.
Instead of building a new fire station, hiring more firefighters and buying more gear, Nelson and city leaders had an idea. Since the nearby city of Santa Clara is also experiencing huge growth, why not merge the two fire departments and split the costs?
The idea turned out to be a good one that leaders of both cities agreed on.
Starting Jan. 1, the Ivins City Fire Department and Santa Clara City Fire Department will officially merge into Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue.
"We're working through it very quickly and we've accomplished a lot," Nelson said. "It's really changing things a lot for us as a fire service."
Five years ago, the Santa Clara and Ivins police departments merged and city leaders said it has been a successful partnership. They hope the same thing will happen with the fire departments.
"We've been running together, training together, for the last eight months to a year. We're a very tight department now," Nelson said.
Residents of the two communities can expect faster emergency responses, more full-time firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and more volunteer firefighters collectively, Nelson said.
The combined department already bought a new fire engine, which arrived earlier this month.
"I want the residents to know they're protected, and they're better protected now that we're together," Nelson said.