FIRE & EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES IN WASHOE VALLEY – Changes Are Coming
Truckee Meadows Fire is the designated first responder to Washoe Valley for fire emergencies. Truckee Meadows Fire is also usually the first responder for our medical emergencies. However, timely response to such emergencies continues to be uncertain. The following is to inform and empower you to share your opinion with the elected officials who will make the decisions that affect your health and safety.
The Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District (TMF) (more recently operating as “Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue”) serves most of the unincorporated areas of Washoe County. TMF does not directly serve (1) the cities of Reno or Sparks, (2) the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area, (3) Tribal Lands within Washoe County, or (4) the far northern part of Washoe County. Under certain circumstances, TMF does provide services to those four areas (and others, such as Carson City) pursuant to various aid agreements.
TMF’s service area is massive, approximately 1,000 square miles. Its boundaries run from the Carson City border in the south to Township 22 in the north, from the California border (Verdi) on the west to the to the Churchill and Lyon County borders (Wadsworth) on the east. TMF maintains 24/7/365 staffing at its 11 “career” fire stations. Several volunteer fire organizations supplement the efforts of the “career” staff. All TMF stations maintain Advanced Life Support (paramedic) capability. In fact, the vast majority of TMF’s calls for service are for medical emergencies.
Funding and Governance
It is important to know that TMF is a governmental entity separate from Washoe County. TMF’s revenues, expenses, budgets, operations, personnel, etc. are not part of Washoe County’s. Owners of real property located within TMF’s service area will find a separate line item for the real estate taxes those owners pay to TMF, in addition to taxes paid to Washoe County, Washoe County School District, etc. (Property owners in the four areas above – Reno, Sparks, Incline Village, etc. – do not pay real estate taxes to TMF.) However, it is also important to know that by provision of state law, the governing board for TMF, which is the Board of Fire Commissioners, is comprised of the same five persons who are elected to the Board of County Commissioners (the governing board for Washoe County). This commonality between the governing boards sometimes leads to the mistaken idea that TMF serves all of Washoe County and is funded by county-wide general taxes.
Washoe County is geographically divided into five districts with roughly equal populations. Each district elects a Commissioner to serve a four-year term on the Board of County Commissioners and, in turn, the Board of Fire Commissioners for TMF. Washoe Valley is located in Commission District 2. Our commissioner, Bob Lucey, is in the middle of serving his second four-year term. He is also currently chairman of the Board of County Commissioners and TMF’s Board of Fire Commissioners.
The Board of Fire Commissioners establishes policies and makes the important decisions for TMF. TMF’s Chief is appointed by the Board of Fire Commissioners who appointed the current Chief, Charles Moore, in 2012.
Interface with REMSA
“The Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority – REMSA – is the exclusive ground emergency medical services provider for (nearly all of) Washoe County, Nevada” (REMSA website) including all of TMF’s service area. Currently, REMSA’s nearest ambulance to Washoe Valley is staged in South Reno at Wedge Parkway. What this means is that firefighter/paramedic personnel from one of TMF’s Washoe Valley stations are usually the first to arrive at a medical emergency in Washoe Valley.
In January 2020, the Board of Fire Commissioners for Truckee Meadows Fire voted to consolidate the fire stations on each side of Washoe Lake into a single station at the northern end of Washoe Valley. TMF has purchased a parcel of land for the new station located on the east side of Old U.S. 395, north of The Chocolate Factory, which is more distant from most of Washoe Valley than the two existing fire stations.
Having a fire station on each side of Washoe Lake staffed 24/7 with career firefighters and firefighter/paramedics obviously results in faster responses to calls for service. There have been two fire stations in Washoe Valley for nearly half a century. The station near Bowers Mansion (Station #30) on the west side was built in 1950 by the Nevada Division of Forestry. Station #32 located on the northern end of Eastlake Blvd. was built by TMF in 1972. In 2012 the Bowers Mansion station “joined” the Eastlake station as part of TMF.
Late in 2019 TMF staff presented a study that showed an imbalance between the northern part and the southern part of TMF’s service area in calls for service vs. resources. The study proposed that a first step to address the imbalance was to replace the two Washoe Valley fire stations, each staffed 24/7 by three firefighters, with a single station staffed 24/7 by four firefighters, thus “freeing up” two positions that could be relocated to the north – without additional employees or cost.
Commitments to Residents
The Board of Fire Commissioners (BFC) approved the proposal despite significant public opposition. The minutes and video of the lengthy January 2020 meeting show that commitments were made for seven important actions to lessen the negative impact to Washoe Valley of consolidating the two fire stations.
- A REMSA Paramedic crew and vehicle would be based at the site of the “new” Washoe Valley station
- The “new” Washoe Valley station would have 24/7 staffing with a four-person TMF crew; most TMF stations have three-person crews
- The “new station” would be an “always-covered” station (i.e., its crew would be the last of TMF’s stations to be repositioned or called out of area to assist another TMF station)
- The new station would be equipped with two water-tenders; most of TMF’s service area in Washoe Valley does not have fire hydrants
- TMF would sign enhanced/stronger aid agreements with Carson City Fire Department for exchange of services
- A Washoe County Sheriff’s office sub-station would be located at the site of the new station, but not necessarily staffed
- A helipad would be built on the site of the new station to facilitate helicopter services such as medical transport and fire suppression
Promises Made, Will Those Promises Be Kept?
Unfortunately, these important public safety commitments appear to have fallen off TMF’s radar. Completion of these commitments may well require further direction from the Board of Fire Commissioners. Washoe Valley is in Commission District 2 and our commissioner, Bob Lucey (firstname.lastname@example.org), has yet to embrace the above commitments; rather he has thus far referred to them not as promises, but as “options.” And when voting on issues primarily affecting only one commission district, commissioners have generally gone along with the position of the commissioner for the affected district. Contact information for all the commissioners can be found on the Washoe County website (www.washoecounty.us/bcc/profile/index.php).
The Board of the West Washoe Association (WWA) has voted to strongly advocate for the fulfillment of these commitments. We will do so by our individual participation and by informing you, the affected general public. The WWA plans to notify you by email when relevant items are on the BFC meeting agenda. Please send an email to email@example.com to be on the list.