The move was made in the event the county could not come to an agreement with Reno to continue dispatch service to the region.
With Washoe County’s decision to divorce Truckee Meadows and Sierra Fire Protection districts from the city and create its own fire district, several decisions have had to be ironed out before the new fire service begins July 1.
To head off any complications, commissioners agreed with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office to hire the new dispatchers, bringing the dispatch ranks from 30 to 36.
Reno is still expected to take up the issue about whether or not to provide dispatch service to the region at its next regular meeting on Wednesday.
“The item is expected to be on the agenda,” said Michelle Anderson, city of Reno spokeswoman.
Residents in Washoe County will have their emergency fire calls answered in one of two ways.
The Washoe County commissioners, acting as the board of fire commissioners, heard two proposed solutions Tuesday, including the approval and extension of the interlocal agreement for dispatch services between the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and the city of Reno.
If the agreement is not approved by the city of Reno, the county dispatchers will already be hired and in place to take over.
During the board’s last meeting in April, staff was directed to continue negotiations with the city of Reno, as well as explore other options for dispatch services, said county spokeswoman Nancy Leuenhagen.
“We are hopeful that the Reno City Council will approve the extension of our 9-1-1 fire dispatch service so that there is continuity in service and the public remains protected,” said Chief Charles Moore of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. “I also appreciate the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office for their willingness to help TMFPD in planning our contingency.”
Moore is confident the Truckee Meadows fire service will be up and running by July 1, with all stations staffed with three-man crews, or smaller crews with some volunteers. Some former volunteer stations are being outfitted for volunteers and sleeping quarters. All fire stations will remain open.
“We remain committed to the highest quality sustainable public safety service and are hopeful that we can bring forward an extension to the current agreement for fire dispatch services with the city of Reno,” said county commission Chairman Bob Larkin prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
However, during Tuesday’s meeting, the county commission approved hiring six new county dispatchers to support fire dispatch services for the county.
Time is running short and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection and Sierra Fire Protection districts are sprinting to the finish line.
The move to hire dispatchers is one more piece to the puzzle for the fire district that has now been put into place.
Undersheriff Todd Vinger, who presented the plan to the fire board, said the hiring process is already in progress.
“We got authorization to move forward. We’re happy with the board’s recognition that this is a priority and that it’s important for the safety of the region,” Vinger said.
“We have a list of dispatchers, and will do interviews next week,” Vinger added. “We’ll have people hired by May 29. We move quickly.”
The six new dispatchers will then begin a four-month training process during which they will also cross-train for other emergencies, in the event of major catastrophes in the region, Vinger said. But, the main focus of the dispatchers’ new work will be for Truckee Meadows and Sierra Fire calls.
“I’ve been really pleased with the cooperation and hard work with the different parties — with Reno, Washoe county, IT and radio groups, dispatch groups, the commissioners, the fire services — and really confident when it gets to Reno City Council that we’ll have a very smooth, safe and responsible transition over the next six months so that we can provide a good service to the public,” Vinger said.
The cost for the dispatchers will be paid by the Truckee Meadows fire service, Vinger said, which includes salaries, benefits, overtime, travel and equipment.
“It’s important when somebody calls 9-1-1, somebody needs to pick up the phone,” Vinger said. “We’re really enthusiastic and happy that Washoe County and the city are working well together to make this a smooth transition.”