University of Arizona

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Louis A. Witzeman Collection of Rural/Metro Corporation Records

Members and vehicles of the Rural/Metro Fire Department.


Rural/Metro Corporation began in 1948 as the Rural Fire Protection Company--a privately-run subscription fire service serving the unincorporated area north of Phoenix, AZ. Louis A. Witzeman founded the company after watching a neighbor's home burn unchecked because there was no fire protection available in the unincorporated area where the home was located. In 1951, the Rural Fire Protection Company contracted to provide fire protection for the newly-incorporated city of Scottsdale, AZ. Rural Fire Protection Company changed the name of its fire fighting operations to Rural/Metro Fire Department after purchasing Phoenix's Metropolitan Fire Department in 1960. Over the years the company expanded its activities significantly to include provision of fire protection for several Arizona cities as well as cities in several other states. Additionally, the company expanded its range of operations to include ambulance service, security patrol service, hazardous materials response service, and emergency services consulting. The company changed its name to Rural/Metro Corporation in 1972. Witzeman retired from Rural/Metro in 1978 and sold the company to his employees through an employee stock ownership plan.

This collection includes business files; company history materials; materials regarding Rural/Metro founder Louis A. Witzeman; correspondence; photographs, negatives, and slides (featuring images of fire fighting, fire damage, fire hazards, fire engines, personnel, stations, and equipment); photocopies of scrapbooks and news clippings; audiovisual materials; and memorabilia.

Rural/Metro Corporation often received national publicity, particularly regarding the privatization of fire protection which traditionally had been a public sector service. Articles appeared in major publications such as Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Reader's Digest, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. These articles, as well as many others, are included in the collection. Additionally, Rural/Metro was featured on the television programs 60 Minutes (1978) and Good Morning America (2000). While the 60 Minutes broadcast is not in the collection, a Scottsdale Quarterly magazine article describing it is included in the collection. Also, the Rural/Metro History Project (located in Series 2: Company History) contains a brief description of the broadcast. The Good Morning America broadcast (on VHS) is included in the collection in the audiovisual series.