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Location/Protection District

The White Mountain Apache Fire & Rescue Department provides Fire & Rescue protection to over 15,000 residents within the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. The reservation resides within three counties and is home to a dozen small communities and hundreds of scattered homes. Currently, we have three fire stations: Cibecue on the west side of the reservation; Whiteriver, fifty miles east of Cibecue; and Hon Dah, twenty miles to the north of Whiteriver, just 15 miles south of Show Low.


The White Mountain Apache Fire & Rescue Department was founded in October of 1988 when the White Mountain Apache Tribal Council verbally agreed to assume the community fire protection program from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The 1.6 million acre Fort Apache Indian Reservation had been left without fire protection after the Fort Apache Agency’s superintendent determined that the BIA fire department existed only for fires involving federal government facilities.

For many years, the BIA Fort Apache Agency provided the community fire protection on the 1.6 million acre Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Numerous federal government employees within the BIA were also trained as “paid on call” firefighters. There were usually one or two older BIA pumpers housed on the BIA compounds. When the fire siren sounded, these employees would respond to the fire and then receive hazardous duty pay as compensation.

Over the years, community members who were not federal employees began to volunteer and eventually joined the ranks of the federal employees as firefighters. These volunteers included storekeepers, mechanics, teachers, ministers, businessmen and others who wanted to help their friends and neighbors. The volunteers however received no compensation for their efforts. They were not covered by insurance and often they paid for their own training. Eventually, there were more community volunteers than federal employees on the department.

The volunteers used “hand me down” protective clothing and fire apparatus. Once while they were at a fatal accident, they were dispatched to another call – a vehicle fire. The 1956 rescue/pumper wouldn’t start. So a Tribal game warden towed the old pumper to the fire. The newest fire engine at the time was a 1973 military surplus deuce and a half. It was so slow going up hills that they would respond without lights and siren. Even the lumber and logging trucks would pass them by. A battery charger had to be readily available to jump the vehicle prior to a call. They were the “jump and roll fire” department.

The volunteers would often hear that the BIA fire department was only for federal facilities and that the volunteers were not to be using federal equipment and apparatus. However, this practice continued for many years. In the spring of 1988, there was a change in the BIA Administration. In July, a few of the concerned members of the department met with the BIA Acting Superintendent, who was Davis Fred at the time. During this meeting the members learned that he and Tribal Chairman Reno Johnson were discussing the need for a Tribal Fire Department. In the same month, Davis Fred was replaced by Ben Nuvamsa, who decided that as of October 1, 1988 the BIA Fire Department would once again be responsible only for facilities owned by the federal government. All the volunteers were told to return any fire department property and to remove all personal property by September 31, 1988.

On October 2, 1988 at 2030 hours, there was a house fire in the community of Seven Mile, about five miles from the BIA Fire Station. Since this was a private home that was not owned by the Federal Government, the BIA firefighters did not respond. The volunteers responded in their own vehicles. The structure was fully involved and the fire was being driven by high winds. The volunteers were there in street clothes with no equipment. To prevent the fire from spreading into the brush, the firefighters threw rocks at the burning walls, making the exterior walls fall inward, instead of outward.

It didn’t take long for the word to spread that a house burned down and that the BIA fire department did not respond. Monday morning came and Tribal leaders soon heard about the incident and schedule a meeting for that afternoon. Chief supervisors from BIA, Indian Health Services, Housing Authority, Whiteriver School District, Tribal leaders and several of the firefighter were directed to attend. Before the meeting was over, the White Mountain Apache Tribe agreed to begin the process of contracting the fire protection service from the BIA. The BIA agreed to allow the Tribe to utilize the fire station and equipment until the contract was in place. Chairman Johnson appointed one of the firefighters from the community, Paul D. Kuehl, as the first fire chief of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Kuehl was directed to “plan, coordinate and manage the overall fire protection and fire prevention efforts on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation”. The Community Fire Protection BIA 638 Contract began on May 1, 1989.

Both under the BIA and the Tribe, this fire department has always had a group of willing members that cared for their neighbors and communities. They attended training and responded to incidents without compensation. They worked at promoting the department and at soliciting support from our Tribal leaders. These firefighters, like many others throughout country, sacrifice so much of their lives for others.

Click here to learn more about the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Organizational Structure

The White Mountain Apache Fire & Rescue Department consists of three (3) Fire Stations with a total of 33 career Fire Suppression personnel, one Fire Chief, one Assistant Fire Chief, three (3) Deputy Fire Chiefs and one (1) Administrative Staff. There are four platoons that rotate on an A, B, C & D shift. From the three fire stations, we protect over 2,600 square miles.

Fire Chief Vacant
Assistant Fire Chief M. Tessay

Deputy Chief W. Cole
Cibecue Community
Deputy Chief Vacant
Hon-Dah Community
Act. Deputy Chief L. Moody
Whiteriver Community

Captain G. Goseyun
Captain G. Thompson
Captain D. Chimoni

Captain D. Aday
Acting Captain Josiah Amos
Acting Captain D. Metzger

Captain Z. Danford
Captain Norris
Captain C. Valadez

Acting Captain Vacant
Acting Captain D. Beck
Acting Captain B. Martin