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Preserving our way of life: Specialized fire equipment needed in Churchill County

Anne McMillin
With its specialized equipment and vehicles, the Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department keeps the residents of Churchill County safe.
Steve Ranson/LVN
Need to know The local ballot question to provide funding for the Fallon Churchill Volunteer Fire Department for the purchase and repair of major fire equipment will be included for the general election. In both the 2008 and 2014 general elections, Churchill County voters approved a ballot question to purchase and refurbish equipment. The county clerk’s office said revenue generated from this tax is used to purchase pieces of fire equipment and apparatus that would be too costly for the county to purchase from the general fund. The levy will not result in any additional tax to residents. Voting yes will continue the same levy of taxes for another six years.

The Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department keeps our community safe thanks to its specialized equipment designed to fight fires and perform rescues in the vast rural desert of Churchill County.

The four fire trucks and engines (two each) were specially designed and custom ordered to meet our local needs.

The standard truck and engine cabs carry four firefighters and a few hundred gallons of water. Fallon/Churchill engines and trucks carry 10 firefighters and 2,000- to 2,500-gallons of water.

“We have 10-person cabs and large water storage tanks because we need to carry all the firefighters we need to the scene and carry our water with us since hydrants aren’t always available,” said Fire Chief Jared Dooley.

Dooley said there are no hydrants in Middlegate or Cold Springs on the eastern side of the county, so this specialized equipment is necessary.

“We responded to a 20-30 acre fire on Earthquake Road (on the east side of Fairview Peak) over the July 4 weekend and had to carry all our water out there. Because we did that, we were able to knock it down in a timely fashion,” said Dooley.

Other custom outfitting on Fallon/Churchill fire equipment include 1,700 feet of 5-inch hose and a full ladder compliment on its four engines and trucks.

Extrication

Extrication is an area where the Fallon/Churchill Fire Department excels.

“We train a lot for extrication and have the tools, manpower and knowledge to remove people from traumatic situations in which they would not be otherwise able to get out,” said Dooley, citing vehicle crashes and canal extrications as examples of situations when the department’s skills have been lifesaving.

Busy most days of the year

Over the last 14 years, the Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department responded to an average of 247 calls annually. In the most recent year (July 2019 to June 2020), the department responded to a total of 330 calls:

• 62 within Fallon city limits

• 244 in the county outside city limits

• 24 rescue calls

• ISO Class One rating lowers insurance rates

The department’s specialized equipment also helps the fire department maintain its Insurance Services Office (ISO) Class One rating. This rating, or grade, generally represents superior property fire protection and is assigned to fire departments earning it across the U.S.

“We are one of four Class One rated fire departments in Nevada; the others are in Las Vegas, Henderson and North Lake Tahoe, but we are the only volunteer fire department in Nevada with a Class One rating,” Dooley said.

Fire Marshal Mitch Young added that when seeking to relocate to our local area, businesses often look at the fire department’s ISO rating because it lowers both commercial and residential insurance rates. Insurance companies use the ISO ratings to help establish premiums for fire insurance and generally offer lower premiums in communities with better protection, like Fallon.

The Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department last successfully renewed its ISO Class One rating in 2019.

Firefighters have strong desire to help community

A common motivation in becoming a firefighter in Churchill County is a desire to serve the local community. Others like the sense of camaraderie or are following in a family member’s footsteps. A few families have passed the commitment to community down through three generations.

Dooley said his uncle and a cousin were volunteer firefighters in Fallon and he heard their stories growing up and wanted to be a part of something exciting while continuing the family legacy.

Young had a neighbor growing up who was a firefighter and always wondered what he was dealing with and what he did when the fire whistle went off. “Being a firefighter is an ongoing way to make a contribution to this community,” he said.

Firefighter Blake Brandenburg said after leaving the Army, he was looking for a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie and found it when he was accepted into the Fallon/Churchill Fire Department five years ago.

Alex Haffner, supervisor of paid personnel, wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps and continue the family legacy.

While each firefighter has his own reason for volunteering time to serve our community, the community benefits from their dedicated service.

Anne McMillin is public information officer for Churchill County.