FERNLEY, NV = The North Lyon County Fire Protection District's fire engines and ambulances may soon be carrying more than crews.
They may soon be bearing commercial messages as well..
This once small farming community has grown rapidly in recent years, attracting businesses to its industrial park and residents seeking small town life and lower housing costs.
In fact, a few years ago it was at times the fastest growing community in the state, one of the fastest in the country. .
That growth spurt has slowed, but it's left a community of 20 thousand along a stretch of major interstate, a challenging assignment for any fire department.
Problem is, the economic slowdown has meant a drop in property taxes of more than 40 percent. The need for emergency services is still there. The funding isn't.
Chief Scott Huntley says his department could use a couple more vehicles, but the real pressing need is for personal equipment, the clothing and gear that keeps firemen safe.
"Some of the turnouts (the protective clothing firemen wear) we have were donated by other departments. They'd been discarded."
Huntley says he has enough gear to outfit his professional crews, but much of the rest ontinues to age. Besides, he'd like to expand his volunteers and that would take additional equipment.
So, they're pursuing another revenue stream, using some of that space on their engines and ambulances as advertising space.
Of course, much of the time those vehicles are garaged in the department's headquarters, but when they do emerge it's highly visible with attention-grabbing sirens.
North Lyon's ambulances log about 120,000 miles a year. That's a lot of use. It's also a lot of exposure for an advertiser.
The ads would be limited to certain areas of the vehicles and wouldn't be available to just any business. In fact, they're targeting those that share the department's public safety mission.
Still, it's a big step and North Lyon is the first in the state to take it.
To understand the issue, you have to appreciate the importance of what the appearance of these engines represent. A fire engine, even an ambulance, is an iconic symbol of the profession.
Huntley says some advertisers might want to share that sort of prestige.
"There's a lot of pride there," says Huntley, "but it's with that pride that we're asking people to help us with our needs."
Huntley says everyone his board, his employees, his volunteers have signed off on the idea.
They're actively looking for advertisers now.