Splitting up with Winchester Hills; new fire district created for Diamond Valley

Firefighters respond to a vehicle fire in Diamond Valley, Utah, June 17, 2017 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A new fire district was created for Diamond Valley, and the community was excluded from the old district by the Washington County Commission at a regular meeting Tuesday.

Boundaries of the new Diamond Valley Fire special service district | Image courtesy Washington County, St. George News
Boundaries of the new Diamond Valley Fire special service district | Image courtesy Washington County, St. George News

The action is part of an amicable separation of the Southwestern Special Service District into two entities which will create separate fire districts for Diamond Valley and Winchester Hills.

“The two fire chiefs have fundamentally different views on wildland firefighting,” Assistant County Attorney Eric Clarke said in an earlier interview.

Diamond Valley brings in younger firefighters, gets them trained in wildland fire suppression and then contracts them out to fight wildland fires, Clarke said, making money for the district in the process.

Winchester Hills, on the other hand, prefers not to get involved in wildland firefighting and so can maintain a smaller department.

At Tuesday’s Commission meeting, the boundary was adjusted to exclude Diamond Valley from the Southwestern Special Service District, and a new Diamond Valley Fire SSD  was created.

“We got a petition by the residents of Diamond Valley that was signed by over 90 percent of the homes,” Washington County Commissioner Zachary Renstrom said. In addition, the fire district itself passed a resolution requesting that it be split in two.

“We took an additional step of where we actually had the state fire marshal come down and look at the fire district and give us a recommendation,” Renstrom said.

The fire marshal not only approved the decision but recommended that the district be divided, he said.

A public hearing on the matter was held in Diamond Valley and feedback from residents was positive, Renstrom said. According to county documents, everyone who spoke at the June hearing was in favor of the action and no written objections were received.

Read more: Diamond Valley, Winchester Hills fire departments splitting up, amicably

The commission began the process of dividing the fire district in May. The Southwestern Special Service District will continue to oversee fire operations until the end of 2016, Clarke said.

The commission will appoint a five-member board to oversee the new district; in the future board members will be elected. In addition, the finances and property of the district will be separated.

“So that come Jan. 1, things are ready to roll and that board can take over that responsibility,” Clarke said, “so we have kind of a transition time between now and the end of the year.”

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