(Thomas Daly of The Hospitality Security Consulting Group) – Pending state legislation (SB-185) to require automatic aid for structure and brush fires between neighboring fire jurisdictions in Washoe County would set a floor, but not a ceiling, on such aid by requiring the closest available unit (singular) to respond regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. That arrangement is an improvement over the current status (no automatic aid) between Reno and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District (TMFPD) and the restricted agreements between Reno and Sparks and the TMFPD and Sparks.
The impact on the City of Reno and the TMFPD would be minor with an estimate of less than fifty such cross jurisdictional calls each year, as structure and brush fires represent less than 3% of all calls for both jurisdictions.
The closest unit responding may have avoided the death of the resident in the house fire on Rhyolite Circle (TMFPD) on New Year’s Day 2015, where Reno station #12 on Steamboat Parkway was the closest staffed available unit, but was not initially dispatched. It would not, however, have made any difference in the West’s home fire in Hidden Valley on 11.30.2013 as, in that case, the closest unit (TM#37 Hidden Valley) did respond but all other TMFPD units responding came from more than 10 miles away. Nearby Reno Station #6 on Mira Loma, the second closest station, was not initially dispatched.
A voluntary agreement between the City and TMFPD for the closest units of both jurisdictions to respond would be mutually beneficial, especially for the City’s annexed areas where no City fire stations were built, despite the tax revenue gains to the City by virtue of such annexation. Without automatic aid in the northern City area of Stead, only close by Reno station #9 would respond to a structure fire there with all other City units coming from downtown, despite multiple TMFPD units being much closer. In the southern parts of the City where the city has only one station south of McCarron (#12 Steamboat) but the District has five, a structure fire on Curti Ranch Road would have nearby City station #12 responding but all other responding City units coming from mid-town, despite two closer TMFPD stations.
TMFPD and City residents and properties would all benefit in Boomtown, Verdi and Gold Ranch where TMFPD has the closest station (#35 Mogul) but Reno has the second closest staffed station (#11 Mae Anne) with other units from both jurisdictions responding from many miles away.
Over the past twelve months, the Sheriff’s dispatch capabilities were enhanced with additional staff and the latest technology which can automatically identify and select the closest units for dispatch. The Sheriff’s dispatch, along with Reno’s and Sparks, share the same technology dispatch platform. A unified dispatch facility would allow Reno to contract for such services from the Sheriff, while disbanding its own redundant ECOMM unit.
Any disproportionate number of cross jurisdictional responses could settled financially using the already agreed to fee-for-service schedule in the Reno/TMFPD mutual aid agreement.
When it comes to automatic aid, it is time for both the Reno City Council and the Truckee Meadows Board of Fire Commissioners to think outside the box. Only the lives and property of their citizens are at stake.
Mr. Daly is a Principal and Managing Member of The Hospitality Security Consulting Group, LLC, a licensed consulting firm, operating from Reno, Nevada and providing assessment and suggested corrective measures to mitigate a wide variety of threats to hospitality guests, personnel, facilities and systems, as well as patrons and employees of Places of Public Assembly and restaurants. Visit TheHSCG.com for more information.