Local

Jul 9, 2014 1:00 AM by Rebecca Taylor

All Arivaca Fire District employees laid off

ARIVACA - Pink slips have been handed out to the entire Arivaca Fire District. Effective Saturday, everyone, including the Fire Chief, is out of a job.

The reason given by fire officials is insufficient funds to cover payroll. Ten firefighters were given notice Monday night, three full-time and seven part-time.

All have been given the option to come back as volunteers.

"Everybody knows we've been having difficulties for a little while due to reimbursement issues, from healthcare transports we just started in November, as well as there's a time delay getting paid for response and grant reimbursements," says Fire Chief Scott VanBoerum.

For example, he says since November the district has billed $93,000 in ambulance services, but is receiving less than pennies on the dollar.

"And to date, we've received $6,000 in income from those billings," he says.

Arivaca is an unincorporated community in Pima County with about a thousand residents. It's located 35 miles northwest of the Nogales port of entry.

Arivaca became a paid district just two years ago starting with paramedics, then adding emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, last September.

The fire district board voted Monday night approving the layoffs.

"So there might be some loss of service in the next couple months, but we hope it will be minimal," says Board Chair Omar Rood.

Property owner Stacy Hatton says, "If there is an accident, a fire, a drowning whatever our fire department has to respond to that."

Hatton says some community members fear the fire district's financial troubles could ultimately cost lives.

"If we're just depending on volunteers, you've got to call them in from wherever they're at and by the time that happens somebody could be dead on the road," she said.

The chief and a couple of firefighters have already agreed to stay on a volunteer basis.

You can count on News 4 Tucson to pass along any developments.

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