The following is a report from the recent Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District meeting by Tom Daly.
Highlights from the July 16th TMFPD meeting and other intel follows:
Wildfires and firearms – The discharge of firearms caused the recent ‘Jasper’ fire (west of Spanish Springs) burning two square miles and destroying two single-wide trailers and one out building. About 100 homes were threatened but the multi-agency response (TMFPD, BLM, RFD, SFD and USFS) saved most homes. Costs to battle the blaze at about $750K, with TMFPD to be reimbursed by BLM. Suspects arrested and charged. In public comment one citizen suggested keeping the County owned shooting range open daily for target shooting (the range is now closed on Tue, Wed and Thu) to preclude shooting in unmonitored areas.
Wildfire evacuations – Chairman Hartung requested a future agenda item to discuss the plans for wildfire evacuations.
Staff – BFC Alex Kukulus was promoted to Deputy Fire Chief (unclassified position ) with an employment agreement (2 years) and salary of $170K. The Fire Marshal position remains vacant but there are several well qualified applicants. Look for that position to be filled in November.
Labor issues – A potential new contract with the IAFF local was reviewed with potential pay increases over two years and other enhancements, including an educational allowance for those with an Associates or Bachelor’s degree. No action was taken, so look for this issue on the September agenda.
Fires – From July 3-5, TMFPD responded to 172 calls, 48 of which were fires occurring in 24 hours. Multiple agencies (RFD, SFD, CCFD, BLM & USFS) assisted given the volume of calls.
Plans – The TMFPD ‘Strategic’ plan and ‘Facilities Management’ plan, laying out a 5 year needs assessment for the District, will be presented for review and comment at the September TMFPD Board meeting on September 17th.
Ambulance – The Board approved on a 3-2 vote (Hartung and Jung dissenting) the purchase of a second ambulance to handle surge issues when REMSA is ‘out of ambulances’. This second unit will be located at TM#45 Sun Valley. The other ambulance is stationed at TM#30 West Washoe Valley.
Agenda Items 11 (Dashboard items review) and 12 (CAD/AVL Dispatch) were pulled due to time constraints and the self-serving and unrelated diatribes during public comment by Kathy Brandhorst and Sam Dehnay. These items will be on the September Board meeting agenda.
Next TMFPD Board meeting is Tuesday September 17th, time TBD (may be earlier than the normal 0900 starting time given the number of agenda items.)
The following is an open letter to Vaughan Hartung from Tom Daly regarding the locking of gates on fire-evacuation routes.
Per our conversation today, to my memory the last multiple communities evacuation drill in the County was in 2008 and included the Mt. Rose corridor neighborhoods of Arrowcreek, Saddlehorn, the Estates at Mt. Rose, Callaghan Ranch, Timberline, Montreux, Galena Forest and St. James Village.
The drill was organized by the late SFPD Fire Chief Michael Greene.
While the conventional wisdom for such a drill would have been for a wildfire coming down the mountain, forcing those neighborhoods to flee east via Mt. Rose Hwy and Arrowcreek Parkway to the safety of the valley floor, Chief Greene instead posed a scenario of a chlorine tanker truck accident at the intersection of Fawn Lane and Mt. Rose Hwy., with the toxic plume spreading west forcing a west bound evacuation, save for the neighborhoods of Saddlehorn and Arrowcreek.
The drill was on a sunny Saturday morning with advanced notice to all communities. Locked gates from Callahan Road to Montreux and from there through additional locked gates to Galena Forest were unlocked in advance with temporary signs at each unfamiliar (to the evacuees) intersections directing fleeing residents (mostly from Callahan Ranch and the Estates at Mt. Rose, about 450 homes) to the safety of TM#39 Galena Forest, the designated ‘safe zone’. All went well and several dozen residents participated.
The County’s reverse 911 system was challenged as it was not able to contact many residents with cell phones to warn them.
Consider the same scenario today.
Assuming a more robust reverse 911 system, still few, if any, fleeing residents would know how to unlock those multiple gates. In my own neighborhood of the Estates at Mt. Rose, evacuation gates are controlled by the TMFPD, not by our HOA. Montreux and Galena Forest gates, some or all, are controlled and locked by their HOAs. Similar locked gates limit access from West Washoe Valley to St. James Village.
As we have learned from the multiple wildfires in CA in recent years, minutes not hours, are the time you have to make an evacuation decision. We cannot wait for the Sheriff, CERT teams or TMFPD units to arrive and unlock evacuation gates.
If residents are to have a chance to successfully evacuate, those gates need to be unlocked all of the time. They can be closed and latched to provide the normal limitations into those restricted communities, but need to be unlocked in the interest of public safety.
Only a county-wide ordinance requiring unlocked evacuation gates will ensure citizens’ ability to successfully evacuate.