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Entire Gerlach Volunteer Fire Department Resigns

Gerlach Volunteer Fire Dept.

The entire Gerlach Volunteer Fire Department has quit, effective Thursday, leaving county officials to provide emergency services for the small town. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

Gerlach's nine volunteer firefighters tendered their resignations in December, citing the demands of holding down two jobs — only one of them paid. 

Fire Chief Willard Gooch, a volunteer for 25 years, says they warned the county about a year ago it was getting to be too much.

"It's just got so demanding on the volunteers, that we have to do all the training that the paid people do — pass all the physicals, everything — and with us having real jobs in other places, it's just too hard to do," says Gooch.

Since the early '60s, the department has served the town of less than 200 residents. They also help out on events such as amateur rocket launches and the annual Burning Man Festival in the nearby Black Rock Desert.

Gooch says the decision wasn't easy.

"It's something that I love to do, with helping people," he says. "Make them have a day that was probably pretty bad in their life and make it just a little bit better; I'll probably miss that end of it."

In a letter to residents, County Manager John Slaughter says they're working on both a short and long-term plan to provide medical and fire services.

In the interim, paramedics and firefighters from the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District will be placed in Gerlach 24/7 starting Friday. 

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.