Lack of fire hydrants plagues firefighters at Sagebrush brothel

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MOUND HOUSE - The nearest fire hydrants to the Sagebrush Ranch brothel are a half-mile away, which led to delays and awkward water transfers from tankers to fire engines to fight Tuesday morning's fire.

Mound House still operates with a patchwork of old, private water systems that Lyon County took over in May 1994.

Since then the county has evaluated how to upgrade the Mound House water system. The first step came in January 1996 when a line linking Dayton and Mound House water systems went into operation, improving water pressure and supply in Mound House.

The county is looking for state grants and loans to put in new residential and business water lines, storage tanks and more fire hydrants to cover all of Mound House.

"We're talking about $4 million to improve the system out there," said Dan O'Brien, Lyon County's public works director.

The brothel area at the south end of Kit Kat Lane won't be covered with hydrants until new water lines are put in because the existing 2-inch line is too small, O'Brien said.

He said it will be another two years before the Mound House water system is replaced. That is the time needed to go through the grant, loan, rate increase and design process.

O'Brien estimates a near doubling of water rates in Mound House to about $35 to $39 a month to pay for the modernization.

Moonlite Bunnyranch brothel owner Dennis Hof isn't waiting for the county.

"I'm in the process of putting in a fireline at the Moonlite Bunnyranch at my own expense," Hof said.

Water tankers had to draw water from fire hydrants on Highway 50 at Kit Kat Drive, Newman Lane and Red Rock Road and transfer the water to fire engines at the Sagebrush.

O'Brien, serving as the county emergency management coordinator at the fire scene, said it was not known if closer hydrants would have saved more of the building.

"That's going to depend on the investigation," O'Brien said. "The bottom line is if fire hydrants are on the scene we could have put water on the fire quicker. We're going to look at whether there were draft stops in the building and were firefighters able to get in there."

The southern wing of Sagebrush I stayed fire free nearly two hours as flames consumed the northern wings, but flames eventually traveled through the attic and took out the southern wing.


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