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Cities Unite to Provide Better Fire Service

Cities Unite to Provide Better Fire Service

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Jed Boal ReportingWhen the Salt Lake County Fire Department answers the call in January 2004, it will put out fires and handle emergencies as the United Fire Authority. Fire protection will not change, the people will not change; the structure will change.

The Mayor of Salt Lake County signed the agreement with the mayors of Alta, Draper, Herriman, Holladay, Riverton and Taylorsville.

Nancy Workman, Salt Lake County Mayor: “That puts us all on the same train on the same track--headed for a fire district. That is a monumental change in how we're going to do this."

Until now the county has contracted with the six cities to provide service. Now they have united to protect a third of a million people. Members of the UFA say combining all assets will improve service for the best price. Plus, the cities will have more input in the department.

Michael Jensen, Salt Lake County Council: “It should give security ultimately to the taxpayers to know that there isn’t going to be geographical boundaries that divide us when it comes to fire and emergency services."

Members of the unified fire authority say the new system helps take politics out of the equation. Each of the six member cities will have a representative on the board and the county will have three members. They'll do all of their planning for the future together."

A new era of fire protection begins January 1st for much of the Salt Lake Valley. Salt Lake County and each of the cities it serves have signed a 50-year agreement for a Unified Fire Authority.

Don Berry, Salt Lake County Fire Chief: “That planning will translate into better service and more efficient service for the tax dollar."

Some even suggest a similar structure would benefit services valley-wide.

Dennis Larkin, Holladay Mayor: “I'm not a metropolitan government proponent, but when you get to these kinds of services, they need to be metropolitan in character."

That could be years away if it ever happens. But county leaders say they waited years for this United Fire Authority. Once the board is chosen, it will give each of the cities, as well as the County, ownership in the newly-formed fire department.

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