Reno/Washoe Fire Mutual Aid to Improve, According to City


UPDATE:
Friday afternoon, the city of Reno reported a meeting led by Senator Ben Kieckhefer has resulted in consensus between the City of Reno and Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District as to when and how requests for mutual aid may be made. The city says this consensus will ensure that mutual aid may be provided to the citizens of each jurisdiction in the most efficient manner possible. The entities have agreed to meet again later this month to discuss any modifications to the mutual aid agreement that may be appropriate to best serve the citizens of our community.

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RENO, NV - Second guessing is common following destructive fires, but Saturday's fire destroying a Hidden Valley home is raising bigger concerns about the potential risk to other neighborhoods.

The fire broke out in the garage of a home belonging to Reno car dealer Richard West on East Hidden Valley Drive shortly after five.

The fire spread to the attic of the home and that, along with its metal roof, made fighting it difficult as it raced through the first and second floors.

No one was injured, but the house was gutted a total loss.

No one is questioning the effort fire crews put into fighting the blaze, but there are questions about the response that trace back to a controversial and contentious political decision nearly two years ago.

Hidden Valley is in the unincorporated area of Washoe County, so the call went first to the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.

The district has a station, number 37, a short distance away. They were on scene within 5 minutes, but with only a two man crew in a "rescue vehicle", essentially a pickup truck with a fire hose..

The call went out to three better equipped and manned stations, but the nearest was in Sun Valley, its engines and three man crews, fifteen minutes away.

The crews and engines of Reno Fire's Station 6 were but five minutes away on Mira Loma Drive.

Before deconsolidation they would have responded immediately, but a full 25 minutes would pass between the first alarm, and a call from Truckee Meadows to Reno for mutual assistance.
T
hat delay is raising concerns about the level of fire protection here and in other unincorporated neighborhoods.

Two years ago amid the debate that ended in deconsolidation of local fire services--the city and the county going their separate ways--Reno Mayor Bob Cashell two years ago warned the move would leave unincorporated areas like Hidden Valley at risk.

In the wake of Saturday's fire the mayor was not saying 'I told you so,' but he was saying this fire and the destruction it brought was no surprise.

"We met with Hidden Valley and we met with Caughlin Ranch and explained to them where their services were going to come from and they seemed OK with that. I was told I wasn't the mayor of Hidden Valley and to leave the meeting and so I left."

Truckee Meadows Fire Chief Charley Moore points out there is no automatic mutual aid agreement with Reno as his department has with Sparks.

The issue once again comes down to a key issue in the decision to deconsolidate. Both Sparks and Truckee Meadows has three man fire crews versus four man crews in Reno.

Four man crews are required by federal safety standards, Two firefighters have to be standing by while two go inside. County commissioners at the time insisted on three man crews as a cost saving measure.

Two years ago the city and the county were unable to find common ground on that issue.

The mayor says he still hopes an agreement can be found in the future.

In the meantime, some on both sides agree the current arrangement is not working.

Chief Moore says Reno should agree to automatic mutual aid. Reno officials say that's how the county set things up.

In any case, Moore says a mutual aid request can only come from one of his command officers at the scene. His first battalion chief arrived a dozen minutes after the first alarm, but a dozen more passed before the mutual aid request was made.

Cashell worries there will be more fires before changes are made.

"I hope it doesn't happen and I wished it hadn't happened in Hidden Valley. Every two minutes that fire just gets going and when you drive up with a two man crew and have to wait 15 to 20 minutes for another crew to show up, no."


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