Ariz. FFs union questions credibility, fundraising efforts of Rampart County Fire Department
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is looking into the operations of a fire department that gets it’s named from the 1970s TV show “Emergency!”
By Bill Carey
PEORIA, Ariz. — Officials in Arizona are investigating the credibility and fundraising of a fire department that does not appear to officially exist and gets its name from the 1970s TV show “Emergency!”
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office was notified by the Professional Firefighters of Arizona union president, Don Jongewaard, about a fire department’s online fundraising efforts and claims about its capabilities, ABC15 reported. The department in question is called Rampart County Fire Department and claims to operate in nearly every county and staff four fire stations.
“I am just not seeing any evidence that they are doing what they say they are doing, and that they are what they say they are,” Jongewaard said. He added he was concerned, “because they are actively asking for money and donations.”
ABC15 spoke with Rampart County Fire Department Fire Chief Nick Smith and his co-founder and partner, Christina Smith, who explained their operations.
“We have two different companies,” Christina said. “We have a for-profit company, which does the non-emergency medical transport.” That for-profit company is called Rampart County Fire Department. The Arizona Department of Health Services says the business is considered a “non-regulated fire department.”
When asked about the four fire stations, Nick stated, “We have a corporate station that we have out here, and that is down the road. We rent a desk from a family member that lets us use it for our purposes.” Since the interview, the website has been updated to state that there is one fire station.
The fire department’s website states the department is “an organization utilizing thousands of employees.” Nick said they do not have any employees on the payroll but that they do have several volunteers.
The department website also states it has a “Regional Dispatching Services,” but according to Jongewaard, it does not appear to exist. Nick’s explanation: “We have our own nationwide communications system and structure that we set up.”
Nick added, “So the main thing that people need to take away from this is that we’re not stepping on toes, we’re not running into burning structures and saying that we’re active firefighters.” However, Jongewaard’s letter to the attorney general underscored his concern: “Many people pass themselves off as first responders to bilk unaware and good-hearted citizens out of donations, the breadth of this apparent fraud is breathtaking.”
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office responded to the claims in a statement to ABC15: “Attorney General Mayes takes allegations of fraud very seriously, and the Attorney General’s Office is looking into the issues raised by the Professional Firefighters of Arizona.”