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Truckee Meadows fire breaks ground
by Jill Lufrano - jlufrano@dailysparkstribune.com
Jun 30, 2012 | 5448 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Truckee Meadows Fire opened its Arrowcreek Fire station earlier this month. Truckee Meadows Fire officially comes online Sunday.
Tribune photo Truckee Meadows Fire opened its Arrowcreek Fire station earlier this month. Truckee Meadows Fire officially comes online Sunday.
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Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.
Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.
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RENO — Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District’s new Fire Chief Charles Moore stood in front of a packed Washoe County Commission Chambers, staring out at his new crew of freshly trained fire fighters and began to speak late Friday.

“A lot of people said this wasn’t going to happen,” Moore told the crowd. “I’m pleased to tell you … we’re ready to go on July 1.”

The crowd, filled with wives, children, friends, County Commissioners and community leaders erupted in applause before a ceremony to officially stand up and staff county fire services in Truckee Meadows.

A line of men and women, just graduated from a two-week course in firefighting, wore shades of blue uniforms as they lined the back of the wooden walls, hands folded. They stood ready to receive the badges to be worn as the first county-operated Truckee Meadows fire fighters in decades.

“What it took to get ready for this was by no means an easy task,”

Moore told them. “There were so many pieces of the puzzle to put together to make this happen.

“I’m so proud to be able to call myself a

teammate to this group,” Moore said.

Lynn Curns of Fernley, wife of new firefighter Dave Curns and mother of their two

children, sat in anticipation in the audience.

“He’s earned this,” she said.

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin gave Moore credit to pulling

together one of the more difficult tasks the county has had to face in

the recent past — resurrecting a fire district from the ashes after

divorcing from the City of Reno fire services.

“I’m very proud of you to recreate the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection

District,” Larkin told Moore. “You have our unswerving devotion. We

support you 100 percent.

“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the right time to do it. Let’s get

it on,” Larkin said.

The struggle was a tough road for Washoe County and the City of Reno

as the governmental entities untied agreements to provide fire

protection throughout northern Nevada. The county’s decision to

divorce from the city came with several obstacle courses.

Fiscally, the county decided it was in the best interest of its

budget to stand up its own services, though in the end, it cost the

county more to provide those services. The move also cost the county

the loss of fire protection in the form of fire crews. Instead of

staffing each station with four-man crews, the county decided to

downgrade stations to three - or two-man crews, but keep all stations

open.

Washoe Commissioners, acting as the Board of Fire Commissioners,

approved final budgets for its new fire districts calling for the

county to spend $4.78 million for Truckee Meadows Fire Protection

District and $9.9 million for Sierra Fire.

“The budgets adopted today will establish a strong financial

foundation for a sustainable level of service for the future. Our

budgets match service capability to financial capacity, which will

result in a sound financial future,” Moore said. “As of July 1, the

new Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District will be comprised of 115

full-time employees, 120 volunteer firefighters and 60 logistical

volunteers. Eleven career stations and 13 volunteer stations will

serve the citizens of the district.”

Some residents still are not clear about whether the county’s decision

to divorce from the city of Reno and attempt to provide fire service

with fewer crew members at each station was a prudent move.

Federal minimum standards call for at least a three-man crew to be

staffed at a fire station. However, three-man crews cannot enter a

burning building if there is no confirmed victim inside. In such

cases, freighters must wait for more personnel to arrive before

entering. In the meantime, they can take alternate measures to ensure

the fire does not catch neighboring properties on fire.

When the consolidation was in place, stations were staffed with

four-man crews, which many felt were safer in the event of a fire.

Several steps were taken in the proceeding months in rapid-fire

succession to prepare the new district to assume fire duties.

On June 15, the district celebrated a grand opening of the Arrowcreek

Fire Station as a prelude to Sunday’s official turnover. One more

piece to Washoe County’s new fire service puzzle was put into place

Tuesday when commissioners approved hiring six fire dispatchers at a

cost of $525,000. The move was made in the event the county could not

come to an agreement with Reno to continue dispatch service to the

region. 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.

Sierra Fire, which will merge with Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District

after July 1, with 40 personnel, had three permanent stations with a

fourth that was expected to come online beginning May 16.

“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.

A cooperative agreement between the City of Sparks Fire Department and

Truckee Meadows was approved. A cooperative Fire agreement and annual

operating plan between the USDA Humboldt, Toiyabe National Forest

Carson Ranger District was achieved. A cooperative agreement with

Storey County Fire and the Truckee Meadows district was approved. A

cooperative agreement with Carson City on behalf of the Carson City

Fire Department was approved and a cooperative agreement with North

Lyon County Fire Protection District and Truckee Meadows was approved.

“The (Fire) Board also approved an amendment with the City of Reno

amending the time by which the agreement terminates from June 30, 2012

at midnight to July 1, 2012 at 8 a.m., which is a mutually agreed-upon

time among the fire chiefs,” Moore said. “By moving the time frame, it

will allow for a reasonable transition for both districts during the

daylight hours.”

The TMFPD/SFPD Consolidated Fire District budget includes 24-hour,

seven-days-a-week staffing for 11 career fire stations, and 13

volunteer fire stations servicing all areas of the fire district,

including Caughlin Ranch, Windy Hill, Verdi and Hidden Valley.

The budget was based on the Board of Fire Commissioners’ March 27

decision to implement an alternative plan for a TMFPD/SFPD

consolidated fire district after the county could not come to a joint

agreement with the city of Reno to jointly provide automatic aid. Reno

has pulled out of providing auto aid to the county.

Residents within the Truckee Meadows district will pay more in taxes

due to the county’s decision.

The decision established a tax rate of 54 cents per $100 of assessed

value for both the fire districts. This is an increase of

approximately 2 percent, or 6.87 cents, in the Truckee Meadows Fire

Protection District — a $24 per year increase in the average property

tax bill for fire service.

The tax rate for SFPD changed from 52 cents to 54 cents per $100 of

assessed value for a less than 1 percent increase in the average

property tax bill. Due to a decline in assessed valuation, however, it

is anticipated the average tax bill will still experience a decrease

even with the increase in the districts’ tax rates.

Moore said during a report in the Commission Chambers: “This financial

sustainability is due to the strong, conservative financial leadership

of the district’s Board of Fire Commissioners with the tremendous

assistance from our Firefighters’ Union IAFF Local 3895 and Chief

Officers Association. These employees stepped forward and saved the

Consolidated Fire District $2.5 million per year due to negotiating

minimum three-person engine companies and salary levels consistent

with regional parity.

“These employees put public safety above themselves and were equally

dedicated to ensuring fire stations were kept open, as was the Board

of Fire Commissioners,” Moore said.

Washoe County Commissioners hired Moore, a 23-year fire chief veteran

from Eagle River Fire Protection District in Colorado to lead the

resurrected Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District beginning April

2.

TMFPD was first established in 1972 and entered into a mutual aid

agreement with the City of Reno after its formation. From 2000 to

2012, all fire service to TMFPD was provided to residents by an

Interlocal Agreement with Reno and serviced by City of Reno

firefighters. For this service, the 83,000 residents living within the

733 square-miles of the TMFPD district paid for a portion of the

combined fire service budget.

The TMFPD Board of Fire Commissioners, made up of the Washoe County

Commissioners, decided to dissolve the agreement in June of last year,

recognizing that maintaining the fire service agreement with Reno

without cost saving adjustments reflecting current economic conditions

was not sustainable.

When first established, TMFPD had a fire chief and its own

firefighters. Once consolidated with the agreement, all firefighters

were laid off, yet the department still owned its own equipment,

generated its own taxes and income and contracted employees out of the

Reno Fire Department.

May 3, Mayor Bob Chashell announced that the City of Reno had received

a $13 million, 2-year federal grant with the help of Sen. Harry Reid

(D-Nev.), allowing the city to keep all city stations open with

four-man crews.

The move came after the county’s decision put 80 Reno fire fighters in

jeopardy of losing their jobs, Cashell said.

“We had to go out and protect our citizens and that’s what we did,” he

told the Daily Sparks Tribune. “And so we were able to set it up for

two years. I”m just as happy as I can be. We had to start working to

take care of our side. It’s a great day.”

As a result, the city did not have to issue layoff notices.

In April, Sierra Fire Protection District, which will merge with

Truckee Meadows, announced it will draw down crews to minimum staffing

levels in order to keep all four of its stations open and maintain

firefighters on the payroll in a contract agreed to with Washoe County

Commissioners.

As doors are unlocked Sunday morning and the newly badged crews begin

to pick up calls as Truckee Meadows Fire Protection fire fighters,

they face more than the political aftermath of the past few months.

Northern Nevada fire forecasters have predicted one of the worst fire

seasons in the millennium this season.

According to Western Great Basin Coordination Center more than 600,000

acres of the state’s terrain is predicted to burn this fire season. With two weeks of fire training under their new belts and badges, the fire fighters face obstacles this summer that have already started to surface east of the state.

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Truckee Meadows fire breaks ground by Jill Lufrano - jlufrano@dailysparkstribune.com


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