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Some Volunteer Fire Operations Folding As Consolidation Nears In Washoe

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District

We recently reported that the entire volunteer fire department in Gerlach has resigned, leaving Washoe County officials to provide the town with emergency services. Back in November, volunteers in Galena also stopped their operation.

To get a handle on what's going on here, we turn to our News Director Michelle Billman.

Historically, there have been eleven volunteer fire departments serving rural communities throughout the county. They've provided fire and emergency services as independent nonprofits, but that's changing. The Washoe County Board of Fire Commissioners has approved consolidation so they will all meet the same standards.

"So, what the problem is is that all of these separate volunteer agencies are not on the same page with respect to training, service delivery, and qualifications," explains Chief Charles Moore of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.

He'll be overseeing consolidation, which starts this month and involves stricter enforcement of training requirements. He's also hoping to bring on forty new recruits and says the volunteer model is here to stay.

"We're no different from a lot of different parts of the country," Moore notes. "Say, for instance, in Gerlach, there's only about 200 or so homes, so there isn't enough tax base to support a full-time operation. You have to rely on volunteers."

The county's individual contracts with all of the volunteer departments have now been canceled and Moore expects one more operation to fold before consolidation is complete.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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