Carefree Election 2023

Beyond Misunderstanding

Many of the claims made by the NO campaign about the Carefree Special Election may have started as honest mistakes.  But when they are repeated long after they were publicly corrected by public officials they become something else entirely.  Here is a very short list of false claims that continue to be made long after being debunked:

  1. Claim: Rural Metro in Carefree has a 4-minute average response time, meeting the NFPA standards.

Rating: Both claims are False.  Rural Metro reports an average response travel time of 4 minutes 22 seconds.  However, Rural Metro does not report National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) response times which are composed of Turnout Time and Travel Time.  Rural Metro reports only travel time, and only when units are not dispatched to multiple calls.

All NFPA response times are measured at the 90% compliance level (that is, 90% of the calls must meet the standard).  There is no NFPA standard that applies to the averages reported by Rural Metro.  90% compliance times can be double the average time.

Rural Metro does not report to any NFPA standard, which is the explanation for the following false claim.

2. Claim: Response times in Automatic Aid cities Phoenix and Scottsdale are much longer than Rural Metro.

Rating:  Completely false.  The NO campaign compares Rural Metro average travel time to Phoenix and Scottsdale’s NFPA standard response times for travel time plus turnout time.  90% of Phoenix and Scottsdale turnout plus travel times met or were better than their reported response times.  Rural Metro met or exceeded the travel time it reports only 50% of the time, and it does not report turnout time at all.

When measured to the same standard, response times in Carefree are comparable to Phoenix and much slower than in Scottsdale.1  Read the letter from Phoenix Fire Chief Mike Duran and the footnote below for a full explanation.

3. Claim: If we join Automatic Aid, our equipment will routinely be dispatched to incidents in Scottsdale/Phoenix instead of staying at our stations.

Rating: Misleading.  Cave Creek joined Automatic Aid last year.  Over the course of 2022, at least 306 more responses were made into Cave Creek than out of Cave Creek.  In a Town with 630 incidents last year, a net gain of more than 300 responses is a huge benefit.  

In Automatic Aid everyone helps in all directions when they are the fastest possible responder.  But towns on the periphery of the system can respond in fewer directions than those in the middle.  Those towns will almost always be net gainers.  And geography dictates that Carefree will always be located on the periphery. 

There are also topics that have been discussed in misleading or confusing ways.  Here are two:

1. How large would the property tax bill be for individual homeowners if the May 16 initiative passes?

The average homeowner in Carefree would pay $668 per year if the initiative passes.  In general, homeowners with more expensive homes would pay more and those with less expensive houses would pay less.

However, it is important to know that the property tax will be different for every homeowner and is based on your Limited Property Value (LPV), NOT on your market value or full cash value.  For perspective on the difference between sale price and LPV, consider that the average sale price in Carefree in April was $1,287,500, while the average LPV is $655,320.  The average homeowner will be taxed on $655,320, NOT on the homes’ sale value.

Here is a method that can be used to determine your tax:

Take out your 2024 Property Valuation Notice

Find your 2024 LPV under the 2024 Valuations header. It’s the amount in the LPV row, value column.

Divide your 2024 LPV by 1,000, and then multiply it by $1.06

The result is your proposed tax amount

Note: If you can’t find your 2024 notice click on this link to the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office.  Enter your address and click on “APN” to find the details for your property address.

2. What will happen to the station and the equipment at Carefree if we switch to Automatic Aid?

  1. The Carefree Fire Station is owned by the Town of Carefree and will continue to serve as the primary response hub for the Town.  The biggest change is that other stations will also become primary responders because they are closer to certain parts of Carefree than our station.

2. Fire Engine 821 and a brush truck will also be Town property.

3. Supplementary equipment belonging to the mutual aid provider is also expected to be located at the Carefree station.  Details will become part of contract negotiations.


1 Note: Scottsdale and Phoenix report response times to the NFPA standard for Turnout Time plus First Engine Arrive on Scene Time.  This is a 90% compliance standards that Rural Metro does not report, but which can be estimated (the calculation that follows assumes that Rural Metro meets the NFPA standard for Turnout Time, which cannot be verified).

Before dropping out of Mutual Aid in January last year, the Cave Creek fire station responded to all Carefree addresses west of a line running south from Schoolhouse Road.  Those responses, which are among the slowest made from the Carefree fire station, amounted to 20-25% of the total responses for Carefree each year.  For the past 16 months those addresses have been served only by the Carefree station.  Because the 90% compliance number can never exclude more than 10% of all responses, the median (a type of average) response to this area is a minimum possible NFPA response time that is possible from the Carefree station.

City of Scottsdale Geographic Information Systems has published the methodology used to determine fire engine travel times from map databases.  This allows the range of First Engine Arrive on Scene Times to these western Carefree addresses to be calculated.  Because Black Mountain blocks any direct path from the Carefree station, the range for these west side addresses is 7-12 minutes (median response times to this region is therefore about 9 minutes).  Adding 1-minute for the Turnout Time standard brings the median response time for this area to nearly 10 minutes.

The minimum possible NFPA response time for Rural Metro from the Carefree station is therefore calculated to be nearly ten minutes.  This compares to reported response times from Phoenix of 9 minutes, and from Scottsdale of 6.44 minutes.