County seeks reserves for firefighters | RecordCourier.com

County seeks reserves for firefighters

by Susie Vasquez

Implementation of a new reserve firefighter program, a first in Douglas County, could be a boon for Minden’s Fire Station No. 1, which is understaffed due to lack of volunteers and facing funding shortages exacerbated by to restrictions on property taxes.

“We don’t have the funding to hire the eight or nine people we need, so we’re using a combination of staffing options to fill the void left by the volunteer issue,” said Douglas County Fire Chief Tod Carlini.

The new positions could lead to a regular job in the profession for these reserves, who are paid minimum wage and can work just 24 hours a pay period.

Several jurisdictions both in and outside Nevada have used similar approaches to offset staffing needs or address specific staffing concerns at specific stations, Carlini said.

Recently approved by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, plans for the understaffed station include three emergency medical technicians for round-the-clock service, augmented by these new reserves.

In addition to using the existing volunteers, administrative staff could be stepping in from time to time, Carlini said.

Before the change, the whole department consisted of three certified volunteers. Most of the responses were being made by two volunteers from other departments who either live or work in the area.

An all-volunteer department was established in Minden in 1920.

A number of issues, including housing costs and busy lifestyles, have contributed to the decrease in volunteers, Carlini said.

“The people who are able to volunteer usually have kids and both parents work,” he said. “It’s tough to dedicate the time to train and meet federal, local and state requirements.”

At the same time, demand has increased significantly with Douglas County’s population growth.

“Community expectations are a lot different than they were 20 years ago,” Carlini said.

County commissioners approved hiring three full-time EMT/firefighter positions for the station, effective Feb. 20, 2006 at a cost of $45,922 for the remainder of the fiscal year. The reserve firefighter program is expected to cost $56,628 in the 2006/07 fiscal year.

Despite these new solutions, the commission directed East Fork officials to start looking for land for a new station 1, primarily due to conflicts with Highway 395 traffic.

The department is located on Highway 395 between Fourth and Fifth streets in Minden.

“When the station was built, Highway 395 was a two-lane road with diagonal parking,” Carlini said. “The traffic now affects our access.”

No timeline has been set for the project and Douglas County will continue to use the station for the foreseeable future, said Douglas County Manager Dan Holler at a recent meeting of the Douglas County Commissioners.

The new station could include administration offices, staff and volunteer accommodations. East Fork officials have $600,000 held in reserve for a proposed administration office, but that money could also be used for both administration offices and a station, Carlini said.

“We have an entirely different set of circumstances than we did four years ago with respect to revenues and needs,” Carlini said. “We have to be more prudent with our spending.”

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.