The Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District decided this week to consolidate its two fire stations in Washoe Valley and to direct more resources toward northern Washoe County, which receives the highest volume of calls.
The merger is expected by January 2022 and involves West Washoe Valley Station No. 30, 3905 Old Hwy. 395, and East Washoe Valley Station No. 32, 1240 East Lake Blvd.
West Washoe Valley’s station was built in 1950 and is 1,000 square feet. East Washoe Valley was built in 2000 and is 1,782 square feet.
Chief Charles Moore said there are two stations in Washoe Valley because East Washoe was previously part of the Sierra Fire Protection District. Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District then absorbed the station upon merger in the early 2010s.
Moore said a new station would be built and that the fire protection district would soon start looking for a suitable site in Washoe Valley. He speculated that the East Washoe station could convert to a fuel site or volunteer station and that West Washoe could be used for state or federal wildland fire crews.
Deploying to heavy call areas
According to call volume data, 37 calls came into East Washoe Valley and 23 to West Washoe Valley in August. That represented 4 percent and 2.5 percent of overall call volume, respectively.
The fire protection district has 11 stations with the busiest being Sun Valley, which fields about 28 percent of calls, followed by Spanish Springs, which handles almost 20 percent, according to a report presented to fire commissioners during the fall.
The annual cost to staff a station is approximately $1.8 million, which includes salary, benefits and overtime. There is also an estimated $300,000 needed for service and supplies, such as station utilities, minor repairs, fuel, tires and other support costs, according to the fire protection district.
At both Washoe Valley locations, 18 firefighters collectively staff both stations around the clock. In the fire protection district’s deployment plan, the Washoe Valley consolidated station would require 12 firefighters, four per shift in three shifts. This would free up six firefighters to deploy to northern Washoe County.
The greatest good
Commissioner Kitty Jung said doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people is necessary.
“The subject matter expert is telling us, ‘You have a giant liability out here in the north,’ and we’ve approved a pretty big project,” Jung said. “Wouldn’t we also have the responsibility to provide life and safety to those people as well?”
Washoe Valley resident Russell Woolstenhulme said he’s concerned about losing a fire station and that the system should be grown, not shuffled. He noted that wildland fire crews don’t respond to medical emergencies or structure fires.
“The medical response time isn’t just important to the elderly, bur for those of us with families as well,” Woolstenhulme told the board of fire commissioners. “I imagine none of you who have raised children would want to have limited access to emergency response.”
Another Washoe Valley resident, Darci Fletcher, said she’s concerned about increasing taxes and less service.
“We don’t mind paying more to keep our services or to grow our services,” Fletcher said. “But to pay more and get less, that really rubs us the wrong way.”
Fire commissioners noted both Washoe Valley stations would continue to operate until the new station is built. Jung added that there are costs to every stand a community takes.
“You didn’t want a (marijuana) dispensary down there. You never want any sort of density enhancement down there,” Jung said, referring to Washoe Valley. “We as a board have acquiesced to that. But what comes with that is less services.”
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.