PHOENIX - Rural Metro Fire said its response time in Cave Creek could get slower as the town moves to establish its own fire service system.

The Cave Creek Town Council on Aug. 16 approved a plan to lease and then purchase the station at 37402 N. Cave Creek Road currently being used by Rural Metro.

The lease agreement begins Oct. 15, with the sale expected to close in January 2022.

Rural Metro said Tuesday the town gave the fire services company notice to vacate by Oct. 20.

"We are disappointed with the decision of the Town Council and feel this is a step in the wrong direction for public safety in Cave Creek," Rural Metro Fire Chief Brian Gilbert said in a press release.

"With our personnel and apparatus being forced to move to neighboring stations, the community may experience delays in 911 response because our teams are now having to travel greater distances."

The Scottsdale-based company, which contracts out its services to communities lacking their own fire departments, said it will move its resources from Cave Creek to Rural Metro facilities in surrounding areas.

In Cave Creek, residents have obtained their fire service through individual subscriptions with Rural Metro. About 45% of residents subscribe to the service, according to town officials.

"Rural Metro Fire has proudly served the residents of Cave Creek since 1968, and we will not allow a 60-day notice to detract from that history or change our commitment to them," Gilbert said. "We stand firm in our service."

Cave Creek has taken heat from departments neighboring communities that have provided help without compensation for major incidents, notably two brush fires in 2020 that cost more than $300,000 to fight.

To avoid such situations again, Cave Creek embarked on a plan to qualify for the Regional Automatic Aid System, which coordinates coverage among participating fire departments across Valley jurisdictions. Rural Metro is not part of the regional system.

Before it can join the system, Cave Creek has to acquire its own fire station and emergency resources.

The town said in a press release last month that purchasing the existing station was the most cost-effective option for getting the project off the ground.

Start-up costs and funding for the first year of operation are covered in the current fiscal budget with no tax increase, the town said.

The town expects one fully staffed fire station to cost $2.7 million a year to operate.