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Attack on Pinehaven fire response unwarranted, misleading (opinion)

By ThisIsReno
Pinehaven Fire in Reno, Nevada on Nov. 17, 2020. Image: Trevor Bexon / This Is Reno.

Submitted by Mike Pilcher

Mike Pilcher

It was disappointing but hardly unusual to see another misleading and unwarranted attack on the men and women of the Reno Fire Department by Thomas G. Daly (Reno’s fire mismanagement – Pinehaven). This has been his life’s mission since moving to northern Nevada and residing in Washoe County. For years, the best approach has been to ignore his childish clamor. But now it’s time to reply; otherwise, someone might believe his speculative “finger-pointing” rhetoric – the same nonsense that got him kicked off the Washoe County Planning Commission.

Mr. Daly’s claims that the RFD (or any agency) can predict and pinpoint a local disaster defy logic and common sense. Five of the six largest wildfires in California history occurred last year. Did responding agencies not learn from years past? Did they not train, educate the public, develop emergency response plans and continue to collaborate with local industry? Perhaps they should have just “raked all the forests” and everything would have been fine.

Mr. Daly, I worked the 2011 Caughlin Fire when 28 homes were tragically lost (when Reno and Washoe County fire departments were “consolidated” into one agency). It was a tremendously challenging, dangerous battle under extreme circumstances with similarities to the Pinehaven Fire. Now you choose to insult, blame and criticize the RFD and cooperating agencies for the tragic loss of five homes? Thanks, Tom.

Suggesting that the RFD fly drones when even firefighting aircraft are grounded due to extreme winds is comical, but please purchase one, learn the challenge of navigation, recon and topography identification and send it up in 60 mph winds. Good luck.

Water tenders in residential neighborhoods having functioning water hydrants would be a dangerous and tactically poor decision with respect to fire engine access and citizen evacuations. Traffic matters.

Mr. Daly’s claim that the RFD “culture” is not to call for help is false, backwards and very misleading of the broad regional cooperation during large scale emergencies that exceed any agency’s capabilities. I have both provided and requested regional aid multiple times throughout a 30-plus year career with RFD, long before he arrived in this valley. Apparatus alone does not fight fire and save lives – manpower does, and the impact and timing of any agency requesting cooperative aid is based upon internal capability and jurisdictional threat.

No fire chief is “beholden” to any firefighter’s union as you claim, Tom. In a paramilitary organization, he or she is supported. Apparently, you misunderstand the value and volume of support provided to administering and operating a fire department through a multitude of standing committees that union members staff daily, regardless of agency. As a L731 member, I can assure you that we have never felt “threatened” as you imply, by partnering agencies regardless of their jurisdiction, only grateful to provide and receive help.

Should the RFD have instantly stripped pockets of resources under red-flag weather conditions and a destructive county fire have occurred, Daly’s op-ed would have a different tune. Lessons will be learned from this incident, as with any. His hindsight is far from 20/20. More like 2020.

Tom, since your career and background are in hospitality, please reach out to the Governor’s office. With 50% of our state revenue dependent upon tourism and hospitality, I’m sure you could find some way to help.

Mike Pilcher retired from the Reno Fire Department as Battalion Chief in January 2020 after serving 32 years.

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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