Rep. Ciscomani tours Pima Fire

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Rep. Juan Ciscomani tries on some turnouts during his visit to Pima Fire on Monday. Ciscomani got Congress to earmark $2 million for a new fire station in Pima.

By Jon Johnson

PIMA – U.S. Representative Juan Ciscomani toured the outdated Pima Fire Department on Monday, to see what his action of getting $2 million in federal funding earmarked for a new Pima Fire Station will accomplish. The department previously estimated the cost of funding a new fire station at $2 million to $2.5 million.

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

Pima has one of the largest all-volunteer fire departments in the state and also runs an EMS division. It not only responds to fires in Pima but also in the surrounding areas and assists other departments when needed.  

It was the last stop of a long day for Ciscomani, which included stops at Freeport in Morenci, a roundtable with community leaders in Clifton, and a tour of the OHS building in Pima.

“All the gems that are here in the town of Pima are incredible,” Ciscomani said. “I’m so proud to be working with all of them and to be their representative in Congress.”

After meeting with town leaders, department heads, and firefighters, Ciscomani got to experience what it is like to dress for a fire and was given a pair of firefighter turnouts and a helmet to adorn. He was then given a tour of the current building – originally built in the 1970s and pointed out its shortcomings, including its habit of flooding during rainstorms, the limitations of its parking bays, and how crowded the firefighters are with their gear and industrial washers and driers which are utilized to clean the turnouts after every fire. Ciscomani said he feels it is important to visit the areas in his district and meet the people to fully understand how to best do his job.  

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Rep. Juan Ciscomani poses with Pima Town Manager Vernon Batty after being presented with a town hat.

“I enjoy coming and again I get a great perspective from people on the ground,” Ciscomani said. “I never have to wonder what’s on their mind. They’ll always let me know good or bad. It’s my honor. Being a representative is not just a title it’s a job description. In order to learn how to represent someone you gotta know the people. So, I’m here learning from the people on the ground so I can do a better job and be a better member of Congress.” 

Pima Fire Chief Scott Howell helped show Ciscomani around and applauded his fundraising efforts as it is essentially a life or death issue for many.  

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Rep. Juan Ciscomani (in turnouts) poses with firefighters and Pima Town officials outside of the fire station.

The new fire station will be constructed in the same location as the current building except that its footprint will now encompass what is currently the Pima Public Library as well. A new library will be constructed adjacent to Pima Elementary School. That project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties. 

Along with a much larger size to accommodate the new, larger fire trucks and more, the station will also be built above grade so it no longer floods, and be designed to mitigate any potential hazardous, cancer-causing carcinogens that firefighters are exposed to.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Rep. Juan Ciscomani meets with firefighters during his trip to the fire station in Pima on Monday.

“Having the space and the facilities for that is going to be a huge improvement to the health and safety of the firefighters,” Pima Fire Chief Scott Howell said. “It’s going to help us to be able to deliver better service to the community. Without the funding that we’re getting through the efforts of Congressman Ciscomani, we’d just never be able to do it.

Pima Town Manager Vernon Batty said he was surprised but pleased that Ciscomani wanted to tour the fire station since the appropriations for the funds had already been placed in the bill. 

“It’s huge for us to have him in our small town and, of course, for him to take one of his 15 slots that he can take to Congress to get funded for our town is huge,” Batty said. “There’s no way we can come up with $2 million on our own. Our entire budget for the year is about $2.8 million, so that tells you about what $2 million toward a new fire department means to us as the town of Pima.”