East Fork firefighters asking for public’s input
Members of the East Fork Professional Firefighters Association battalion chiefs and firefighters bargaining units, in cooperation with representatives from the East Fork Fire Protection District and the East Fork Volunteer Chiefs’ Advisory Board, released the District Board Workshop Edition draft of the 2017 Standards of Cover to the district’s board of directors at a public workshop held on July 10.
The document is available for public view at http://www.eastforkfire.org. Public comment will be accepted at the next fire board meeting July 18 at 1 p.m. at the East Fork district office, 1694 County Road in Minden.
“This document is definitely a move in the right direction although there are pieces of the plan that the public should be aware of and concerned about,” Paul Azevedo, president of the Association, said. “We are hopeful the people will take notice and bring their safety concerns to the forefront.”
Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson outlined the draft plan in the meeting, which spanned nearly four hours at the East Fork district office. The draft represents the first updates to the district’s Standards of Cover adopted in 2012, six years after the district’s first ever Ten Year Strategic plan, adopted with governing body approval in 2006.
According to a statement by District Fire Chief Tod Carlini, the document describes the East Fork service area, risks that must be protected and reduced within the jurisdiction, and East Fork’s capabilities, performance objectives and measures.
The plan calls for increased staffing to add a third firefighter to Engine 7 located in the Gardnerville Ranchos, which aligns with the Association’s bargaining unit goals to approach National Fire Protection Association firefighter safety standards, increase ambulance coverage to the district by way of a “40-hour car” covering peak service hours, re-tooling the district’s ailing volunteer program, apparatus and safety issues, including advanced technical training, cross-staffing and station personnel.
Azevedo said the Association has concerns on the committee’s definition on cross-staffing, apparatus and representation of the district’s fire stations in Insurance Service Office, or ISO, ratings which impact homeowners’ insurance rates.
The issue, Azevedo said, is the majority of East Fork’s stations are unmanned volunteer stations and their membership has decreased to a point where they’re almost unable to respond in any capacity. The ISO rating doesn’t account for this and may give the public a false sense of fire protection.
“Unfortunately, emergencies never happen one at a time,” he said. “On Thursday, we ran 25 calls, eight of them came in a 2-hour time span, and four were patient transport to Renown, which is a 3-hour turnaround time per trip. Multiple calls were dispatched with no available ambulance, and we down-staffed Engine 4 in TRE to run ambulance calls.”
Azevedo said East Fork has consistently lost 20 percent of its volunteer roster year over year for the past five years. Last year the district had 55 volunteers, this year there are 37. In those same years, East Fork’s call volume has increased 12.5 percent.
“It’s misleading to say we have 14 fire stations ready to roll,” Azevedo said. “In truth, we have five manned stations and nine volunteer stations. The station nearest your house may not respond to your emergency, as we saw last fall when a resident watched his motor home burn to the ground half a block from a volunteer station.”
East Fork is ramping up a new volunteer recruitment program, seeking logistical firefighters to respond to incidents and serve on wildland fire incidents, performing vital water supply operations, support major incident by managing equipment needs and other resource requirements; and support volunteers to keep stations and apparatus ready. The district isn’t seeking volunteers to perform emergency medical care or attack firefighting as it has in the past.
“The Standards of Cover impacts the health and safety of every resident of Douglas County,” Azevedo said. “We hope to see public curiosity about the risks and limitations of the district, as well as the amazing work performed by our resources and administration, and to see them provide feedback to the district fire board.”