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Drug/Alcohol-fueled Reno Firefighters? (Opinion)


A Contractual Possibility That Needs to Stop


Submitted by Paul White

It’s a nightmare scenario: 30 tons of Reno Fire Department (RFD) fire truck careening out of control, driven by an alcohol or drug-fueled firefighter. The fire truck slams into a crowd or building, on its way to an emergency call, causing death and destruction on its way to prevent death and destruction

Due to a professionally irresponsible and insanely dangerous drug/alcohol policy in the RFD’s union contract, this tragic scenario is a real possibility.   

Since 2002, the “Drug and Alcohol Testing Policies and Procedures” provision in the RFD contract has allowed firefighters, with levels of illegal drugs and alcohol ranging from DUI level to 5 TIMES DUI  level, to work and to operate equipment. Virtually no punishment or random drug testing are allowed. NO other public safety workers including county firefighters and Reno Police Department, et al., have such an unaccountable and dangerous clause in their contracts.

Community group QOL-Reno.org contacted the City Council to ask for their support in changing this policy. NONE of them would discuss or acknowledge the issue. Reno Fire Chief David Cochran refused to speak about it, as did the RFD Firefighters Union.  City Manager Sabra Newby said she could not say anything about the issue, “… because the contract is currently under negotiation,” which in NO way prevents Newby from expressing an opinion on the policy.   

Finally, QOL-Reno.org personally visited all 13 RFD fire stations, sharing information about this dangerous policy and expressing a need to change it. QOL-Reno spoke with captains and firefighters at each station, urging them to speak out against it.  With few exceptions, they responded with indifference and/or arrogance, and occasional belligerence.

ALL of the above-mentioned individuals, especially our firefighters, have two choices. They must either speak out and take immediate steps to change RFD’s dangerous drug/alcohol policy, or stop talking about how much they care about our city’s safety, health, and financial liability.

Paul D. White is Director of QOL-Reno.org and welcomes comments at:  [email protected]. RFD drug/alcohol policy is available at https://qol-reno.org. Also see https://www.rgj.com/story/news/2014/06/22/reno-policy-allows-bac-firefighters/11178803/

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