By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – All of the fire departments in Graham and Greenlee counties (with the exception of the small, private Freeport McMoRan Fire Department at its mines) are volunteer operations. Finding funding to help train community members to become certified firefighters just got a little bit easier.
On Monday, a grant for $22,000 from the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties was presented to Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham to help pay for the training of new firefighters. The presentation was made at the start of the Safford City Council’s work session.
Debra Gibbs and Ameilia Sainz were on hand from the United Way and presented a lottery-sized check along with the real check to Bingham.
Gibbs thanked Freeport McMoRan, its employees and the employees of the city of Safford and the residents in Graham and Greenlee counties.
“Without their donations, there would not be a United Way,” Gibbs said. “And we’re blessed to be able to give back to the community, but if it wasn’t for the citizens, there wouldn’t be any money for us to give . . .”
Bingham said the money would be utilized for the Safford Fire Department’s training program, headed up by Safford Fire Department Assistant Chief Patrick Anderson.
The department started its training program in 2016 with 10 firefighters. Bingham said Anderson was influential in motivating the desire to increase the number of firefighters they could train and seeking grant funding to do so. He added that the training is open to firefighters from anywhere in the two counties.
“This isn’t just us,” Bingham said. “This is for the (Gila) Valley. We’re training our backup is what I like to call it, and it’s very important.”
Safford Mayor Jason Kouts thanked Sainz and Gibbs for their efforts and the members of the fire department as well. Safford City councilors Gene Seale, Steve McGaughey and Chris Taylor all serve on the Safford Fire Department as well.
“We appreciate the fire department,” Kouts said. “You guys (are) what makes our fire department what it is . . . So, hats off to all of you firemen. I appreciate and value everything you guys do. I really do, and I appreciate that. And I’m sure that everyone would echo the exact same thing.”