SARATOGA SPRINGS — Officials in this new town on the shores of Utah Lake in northwest Utah County are wasting no time putting together a fire department.

They know they have Lake Mountain to protect — an area that burns nearly every year — and about 1,250 homes that are some 5 miles away from the nearest fire station in Lehi.

So, although Saratoga Springs has been incorporated for only three years, the town now sports six pieces of equipment and has recruited a volunteer fire chief.

The town plans to be ready to fight the first fire by July 1, if necessary.

"I'm not going to cut loose from the county until we're ready. We go off county when I notify them, and not before that," said Dave Vickers, Saratoga Springs' first fire chief.

Vickers, who has worked for 16 years with Pleasant Grove's fire department, also works for Utah's Fire Marshal's Office.

"We don't ever plan to be 100 percent on our own," he said. "But we all know the most critical element in fighting a fire or in dealing with a medical emergency is time. We can buy ourselves some time by having our own department.

"We can deal with the one-room smaller fires before they become aggressive. We can keep a situation from getting to the point where it's just gone."

As he admired the bright green No. 4 engine that used to be a runway truck at Hill Air Force Base, Mayor Timothy Parker said the first official duty of the department is to monitor the fireworks for the city's annual celebration.

"Then we'll go from there," he said.

Parker said Saratoga Springs includes a lot of foothill area along the Utah Lake shore.

The town has grown rapidly since it incorporated and 400 people lived in the area. Now, there are some 1,250 residents and five approved subdivisions under construction.

"We're it from the crossroads to the lake, from Pelican Point to Camp Williams," he said. "We're all there is. We recognize we have a real challenge."

Parker and Vickers, with the help of town Councilwoman Lynette Hubbard, have applied to the Department of Forestry, Fire and State Lands for inclusion in the Federal Exchange Property Placement program.

Through the program the city can receive equipment for the fire department. Each piece comes free with the understanding that the city will maintain the equipment and pass it along when it's no longer needed.

"It's done on a needs assessment basis," Parker explained. "I suspect our needs weighed heavily in our favor because we have so much open brushland."

Vickers said the Lehi fire chief actually pushed Saratoga Springs to look at developing a fire department of its own.

"They've been great to work with, very supportive, and we'll maintain an automatic aid response agreement with them for structure fires," he said. "But with the growth in Lehi, I think Lehi feels they're responsible for enough without having us to worry about, too."

Parker recognizes the town needs to build a fire station as soon as possible. The department's equipment is currently housed in a barn at a nearby farm.

"We've been collecting public safety funds in our impact fees so we're pretty comfortable with the costs so far," he said. "We hope to continue our policy of not getting into public debt for these kinds of things."