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House burns 3 miles from Eloy Fire, Chief says 'not our problem'

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The chief of Eloy Fire District is defending his department's decision to refrain from responding to a fire call just a few miles away.

The fire happened over the weekend in Picacho - an area where they do not have fire service.

"It's like everything I had I don't have anymore," said Edward Ortiz. 

His home is now a pile of ashes. Next door, Bruce Martan also lost everything including the home his deceased father built.

Both say the damage did not have to get this bad.

"If they would've responded 3 miles away to send their resources. One truck would've put this out in 5 minutes," said Martan.

Tucson News Now requested the dispatch tapes. The 9-1-1 dispatcher called Eloy Fire -- the closest fire department just three and a half miles away.

Eloy Fire to Pinal Co. Sheriff's Dept.: "Ok, I'll get someone started out there. You said someone was still inside? Yeah someone is inside.

But, 5 minutes later, Eloy Fire called back.

"That's going to be out of our area and no one's going to be able to respond."

The reason? Picacho is in a rural area where residents don't pay for fire service.

Matt Mendes asked "There's an ethical question. If you guys are 3 miles away and there's another fire station 30 miles away?"

Eloy Fire Chief Coy Amerson: "Not our problem. Sorry, but you're not in the district you're not our problem."

Amerson says his department will go out if someone's trapped inside. But that ended up not being the case.

The dispatcher also tried calling Regional Fire. That's about 20 minutes away.

"We have a fully engulfed trailer south of Eloy in Picacho. I don't know if you'd go that far or not. Yeah, we generally don't. We're trying to get more manpower so we can go to farther places."

But, it was the farthest department, Avra Valley FIre that ended up going, a 30 mile drive.

"It's bad we don't have a fire company coming out here," said a Picacho resident.

"Too many people have the mentality that the government is going to provide service for them and they're oblivious until the fire happens," said Regional Fire Chief Steven Kerber.

Chief Amerson says he's approached some Picacho residents about annexation. That would cost anywhere from $50 to $250 a year for fire coverage.

Martan said, "They've never offered any options to pay for their service."

Still, nothing will bring back a 60 year old home, his livelihood and many precious memories.

"This isn't the American way. Not to help someone out."

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