The recent layoffs in the Reno Fire Department are having some immediate effects on the community. On Saturday, station seven in the Skyline area was closed due to staffing issues. Firefighters say their response time to that area will now be delayed several minutes and sometimes, a minute can make the difference in saving a life.
You can hear a clunking sound echoing in the silence as a saddened retired fire captain hammers in the sign: “Station 7 Closed Today.”
“This is horrible,” he says.
But this is what Fire Information Officer Steve Frady describes as the reality of what’s happening across the country. As budgets dwindle, the city council is forced to make some tough decisions.
Fire Captain David Sunday was working with one of 12 firefighters that got laid off when he got the notice. This is the first time Reno firefighters have been laid off since the Great Depression.
“It’s emotional for all of us. It’s one big brotherhood and when one of your brothers gets laid off and is out of work it’s emotional for everybody, and a little scary for everybody.”
And the layoffs are what ultimately led to the closure of station seven today. Off-duty firefighters knocked on doors throughout the nearby neighborhood.
Brad Jensen is President of the Reno Firefighters Association. He says it is important to “let the public know what service cuts means to them.”
The next closest fire station is about five minutes away on Moana Lane. The longer response time could mean the difference between saving a person's life.
Battalion Chief Brent Swearingen says medical issues make up the majority of their calls. “A heart attack, a stroke, or diabetes. Probably the longer it goes [without help], the worse the damage.”
Swearingen also says a fire can double in size at an exponential rate.
Skyline resident Janelle Turnier says, “It’s a huge concern as a mom of two boys. I’m concerned they may not be able to help us if something terrible happens.”
Residents are upset and confused.
Mike Sprinkle and other off-duty firefighters knocked on residents doors Saturday to give them information about the closures and offer some safety tips. “Some of the comments I did hear were ‘what their tax paying dollars are going for if they're closing public service and safety.’”
It’s not clear when station seven will re-open. It could be as early as tomorrow. One thing that seems clear—this is just the first of more station closures to come.
Someone involved in the Reno Fire Department who wants to remain anonymous says they blame the City Council for not prioritizing well with budget cuts. “I’m very discouraged. Very disappointed with the Council and the mayor especially.”
We called mayor Bob Cashell for comment. He said he was at dinner and does not wish to comment at this time.
Firefighters have set up a web site if you have any questions about the station closure. There you'll also find some safety tips. Go to renoatrisk.org.