RENO — Sierra Fire Protection District has agreed to draw down their crews to minimum staffing levels in order to keep all four stations open and maintain firefighters on the payroll in a contract agreed to with Washoe County’s Board of Fire Commissioners this week.
“We’d like to continue to always have four (person crews),” said Alex Kukulus, Firefighters Association President for IAFF 3895 Sierra Fire Protection District. “It’s best for the community. But based on the budget right now we didn’t feel it was feasible at this time.”
As soon as the county realizes more funding in the fire services budget Kukulus said he is hopeful the district can return to four-man crews.
The minimum staffing of three-person crews cannot enter a burning building, unless a confirmed victims is inside, according to federal guidelines. County Commissioners agreed to draw down its staffing when it decided to divorce its fire districts from the City of Reno in order to save money, however, many residents and fire personnel have spoken out against the dangers of such a move.
“I’m glad we were able to come to a reasonable agreement,” Kukulus said. “Both sides did have to compromise, but I think it’s something we can live with.”
Sierra Fire, with 40 personnel, has three permanent stations with a fourth coming online beginning May 16.
Sierra Fire’s contract will be in place for at least one year, with an option to reopen it for negotiations in the second year to readjust salary levels if funds become available, Kukulus said.
“The pay is at a parity level as other departments,” he said. “The average pay went down, a log with other departments, but it is also being recaptured for (paramedic) pay.”
With the new contract, Sierra Fire is assured by the county of no layoffs, no station closures and no “brown-outs,” he said.
Newly hired Sierra Fire Protection District Chief Charles Moore, whose first day was Monday, will also be heading up Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.
Washoe County Commissioners, acting as the fire board, recently went to “Plan B,” which “may include a fire district property tax rate increase, but with declining assessed values, actual tax bills for district taxpayers are still forecast to decline,” according to its plan. “The Board will consider any possible tax rate increases in future public meetings with final budget adoption on May 21.”
“Plan B” calls for no station closures in Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District but calls for a tax increase from 6.87 cents to 54 cents in the district, and 2 cents per household to 54 cents in the Sierra Meadows district.
Commission Robert Larkin was appreciative of the agreement with Sierra Fire association.
“The Sierra Firefighters have been great partners to help insure that our residents have an outstanding fire service there when they need it,” Larking said.
Another meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners is scheduled to ratify the agreement on April 10 at its regular meeting.