At midnight a voice came over the dispatch radio: "Congratulations, Scottsdale. Twenty-four-hundred hours."
A small crowd of firefighters at Station 604 in central Scottsdale had gathered to hear those words during Friday’s opening minutes. There was no cheering as they all listened and then got back to work.
"That’s the same thing they said on Tuesday," said Karl Michel, an engineer with the Scottsdale Fire Department, commenting on the radio announcement.
They first heard it when Scottsdale’s dispatch system was shifted three days earlier to the Phoenix Fire Department’s regional satellite system that routes emergency vehicles from 24 cities and departments.
But this time, the announcement meant the Scottsdale Fire Department was officially in place. The new department took over for Rural/Metro Corp., the private emergency-services company that had served the city for 53 years.
The vast majority of changes Scottsdale fire is instituting have already been installed — from computer equipment to work schedules.
"It’s just the little things now," said Ryan Freeburg, a Scottsdale fire captain, of the tasks still awaiting completion.
Scottsdale’s transition from Rural/Metro was radical — building a fire department for a city of more than 220,000 people in less than two years — but the night the city department took over was calm.
Firefighters went about their normal duties, perhaps with more enthusiasm than usual.
"Twenty-five years from now, when I retire, I can say, ‘I was here the first minute,’ " said Bradley Clawson, a firefighter. "Coming in today was like the first day of school. This is (still) my station, but it just feels different."
Engineer Dan Bright, charged with driving fire engines, backed out the station’s ladder truck. He and his colleagues, firefighters Jason Jones and Clawson, began their daily ritual of inspecting the vehicle.
The only thing unusual about the work they were doing was that it was in the dark, said Rich Upham, a deputy chief. Typically, that job is done at 8 a.m., when firefighters’ shifts change, he said.
The ladder was raised to check the hydraulics, the sirens blared and the chain saws started. When the firefighters are out on an emergency, "it’s not really acceptable to go out on a call and not have something work," Upham said.
Scottsdale Fire Chief William McDonald has said he did not see much structure at the stations under Rural/Metro and that that would change when he was in charge.
A little after 1 a.m., Freeburg pulled the firefighters into a huddle, with him sitting on the front bumper of the station’s fire engine and the firefighters standing around him.
For Freeburg, it was time to lay down Scottsdale fire’s rules.
All firefighters are expected to provide good customer service and act professionally at all times, Freeburg said.
"The days of wearing shorts and flip-flops are over," Freeburg said. Those more casual items are not to be worn during daytime hours.
Two hours into their first Scottsdale fire shift, it was time for bed.