Skip to main content
Photo of two firefighters in smoke

New Regents’ Community Grant addresses firefighters’ housing issues contributing to recruitment, retention problems

Through a new Arizona Board of Regents’ Community Grant approved by the board today, firefighting agencies will be better equipped to offer solutions for personnel who are priced out of their jobs by high housing costs.

The community grant is designed to answer critical questions regarding firefighters’ housing issues and propose solutions to the problem that affects communities, including the fast growing Prescott area. This research dovetails with a Regents’ Community Grant approved by the board earlier this year that addresses challenges in the retention and recruitment of firefighters.

Lack of attainable housing in rural Arizona is a critical challenge for public safety professionals and their families.

“We’re struggling,” said Fire Chief Scott Freitag who heads the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority. CAFMA serves more than 106,000 Arizonans in the Prescott Valley area and over half of Yavapai County. “We can’t ignore that a big problem with recruiting and retention is housing. With starting salaries around $55,000, housing expenses for firefighters are often unaffordable especially when compounded by other living expenses such as day care and cost of inflation.”   

This issue spirals into major challenges for agencies. When personnel are hired, departments may invest more than $100,000 in training each firefighter only to see them quit and take jobs in other communities where they can afford to live.   

Last year Freitag’s department was short 20 positions due to injuries and people leaving the department. In the future, he may need to add more than 40 positions in operations and non-operations staff. Compounding the problem is a lack of applicants, said Freitag. Recruiting and retaining qualified staff is an ongoing challenge.  

“We take it for granted that firefighters will be ready to respond when our loved ones have medical emergencies or fires break out,” said ABOR Chair Lyndel Manson. “The reality that firefighters often can’t afford housing in the communities in which they work is troubling and not tenable for the future. This grant is designed to offer solutions to this issue so firefighters can focus on what matters most – fighting fires and saving lives.”

The grant will be led by Northern Arizona University researchers who will define challenges and develop strategies and programs for firefighters to attain housing in the region. Researchers will also examine issues such as: size of the housing stock that can be used by fire personnel; the existing gap in both quantity and housing types; and how comparable cities and towns successfully address housing problems for public sector employees.

One housing work-around firefighters utilize involves commuting to jobs from places where housing is more affordable and available. Yet, living outside of work areas means tiring long drives and missed family time. Firefighting personnel who commute typically don’t have time to volunteer in their community of employment, impacting the fire department’s capacity to support additional community initiatives, said Freitag.

Researchers will engage stakeholders from the area including CAFMA, Prescott Fire Department, Yavapai county and municipality leaders, government organizations, regional real estate developers, legal experts, and local vocational and high schools.


Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 |

Julie Newberg, 602-229-2534 |