Arizona Department Gets Picky About Snake Calls

Posted: 03-02-2009

The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Snake season is upon us, but so are tough economic times, which have caused the Northwest Fire/Rescue District to change the way it responds to such calls.

Northwest firefighters will no longer respond to all snake calls unless they can determine that the situation is a true emergency, said Katy Heiden, an agency spokeswoman.

Callers will be asked if anyone has been bitten or injured. If the answer is no, the caller will be asked about the location.

If the snake is in an unfenced yard or open area, callers will be advised to keep children and pets away from the snake until it goes away.

However, if the snake is in the house, garage or an enclosed yard, firefighters will respond to remove the snake.

They will also come out if the snake is near a school, day care or bus stop, Heiden said.

If the situation is deemed not to be an emergency, the caller will be advised to call a professional removal service.

In past years, the Department has received dozens of snake calls a day during peak summer months.

While many calls were from people who had snakes in their yards, many more were from people who spotted one in a wash or open area and by the time firefighters responded, the snake was gone, Heiden said.

"In addition to reducing fuel costs and wear and tear on fire engines, eliminating the non-emergency snake calls will allow firefighters to respond more often to emergency fire and medical calls directly from stations rather than from non-emergency snake calls that may have taken them to a far end of their response areas," said Northwest Fire Chief Jeff Piechura.

The new policy went into effect Sunday.

The Tucson Fire Department will continue to respond to all snake calls, said Capt. Tricia Tracy, an agency spokeswoman.

The city will cover the cost of the removal by a professional company as long as the snake is in an enclosed area and cannot leave on its own.

If that is not the case, the caller will be responsible for the cost should they request professional assistance, Tracy said.

There is no cost associated with removal in the Northwest Fire district as the firefighters remove the critters on their own, Heiden said.

The Rural/Metro Fire Department responds to all snake calls, said spokeswoman Anne-Marie Braswell.

McClatchy Tribune Information Service