One evening in 1948, Lou Witzeman watched his neighbor's house go up in flames because there was no fire protection in his small, unincorporated community. He knew something had to be done.

Lou Witzeman

Lou pooled together some money, bought a fire truck, and began the operation of a four-man fire department. He couldn't collect taxes, so he went door to door, asking his neighbors to subscribe by paying an annual fee. "There was no master plan in forming the company," Witzeman said. "I simply needed fire protection for my neighborhood, and I was determined to get it."

His idea turned out to be a solution for many surrounding communities. "I never expected the company to grow so big," Witzeman said. "I just wanted to provide my neighborhood with fire protection. But soon I began to realize that I had really stumbled onto something. I found that the established ways of providing services were not as efficient as they could be. So Rural Metro Fire's cause became to look for new and better ways to do the job ... for less money."

Lou encouraged creativity, and explored different methods to meet each of his client communities' particular needs. In fact, finding ways to deliver cost-effective service based on needs became Rural Metro Fire's primary mission, which remains with the company today.

In 1978, Witzeman sold Rural Metro to his employees through a unique employee stock ownership plan. In July 1993, Rural Metro began trading its stock on the NASDAQ stock market. Rural Metro Fire is now a division of AMR.