East Fork Professional Firefighters Association & East Fork Fire Protection District Reports· 7 min read
MINDEN, Nev. – 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 Monday, July 10.
The document is available for public view at www.eastforkfire.org.
Public comment will be accepted at the next fire board meeting Tuesday, 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.”
In 2006, the East Fork Fire Protection District, saw the first ever, governing-body approved, 10-Year Strategic Plan. One of the more aggressive and challenging objectives within this plan was the development of a Standards of Cover for the district. Six years later, the District’s first Standards of Cover was developed internally and adopted by the District Board of Fire Commissioners. Now, four years later as part of an update to the Strategic Plan, the District has drafted a revision to its Standard of Cover.
The East Fork Fire Protection District said the document describes the service area, the risks that must be protected and reduced within the jurisdiction, the capabilities, and the performance objectives and measures.
“This information will allow the District to identify risks in the jurisdiction, analyze and establish levels of response service to respond to those risks, and most importantly, evaluate the performance through benchmarked response times and staffing objectives,” according to a statement released by the district. “These response time goals, staffing objectives, and resource deployments will contribute to our commitment to continually improve how we deliver our services.”
According to a statement from the firefighters association, “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 district statement said that in revising the deployment plan, the methodology used required the assumption that it is reasonable, realistic, fiscally sound, based on factual data, contract compliant, and safe in the allocation and deployment of personnel, both career and volunteer, and the physical resources of the District.
“The plan must also attempt to adhere to all related rules, regulations and requirements. Also taken into consideration are nationally adopted standards, such as those promulgated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Heart Association (AHA), the International Association of County Managers (ICMA), and Insurance Services Offices (ISO), as examples,” the district statement said. “Using multiple standards to gauge performance can serve as an effective and well-balanced ‘checks and balances’ of the entire deployment model specific to the District. While NFPA 1710’s primary focus is on staffing, the American Heart Association tends to consider response time for emergency medical services. The International Association of County Manager’s standards attempt to relate service levels in the form of a ratio between the population of the area served and the number of responders available. Lastly, ISO, serves as an overall ‘report card’ solely on fire protection services, but includes water supply and dispatching.”
District Chief Tod Carlini said that, “equally important … is recognizing that the safety of our personnel must be a priority. A priority which can’t be ignored and one which should not be compromised for the sake of meeting response time objectives. As the financial status of the District improves, staffing must be a strong consideration.
“With annual call volume increasing at a rate of 3 to 4 percent per year and given the current reality and modifications to our volunteer program, the need for additional career personnel is justified, ” Carlini said.
The issue, Azevedo said, is that the majority of East Fork’s stations are unmanned volunteer stations and their membership has decreased to a point where they are almost unable to respond in any capacity. Azevedo said 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, according to the firefighters association.
“Volunteer personnel will hopefully play a key role in the logistical needs of incidents and the District in general,” Carlini said. “The district is attempting to ‘re-tool’ the volunteer program but faces some significant challenges, including general demographics, lack of jobs, lack of affordable housing, and competing interests of an individual’s free time activities.”
Carlini agreed that while the District has fire stations in all of the District’s “communities” such as Johnson Lane, Fish Springs, Genoa, Sheridan, Topaz Lake, and Ruhenstroth, those stations are not staffed and volunteer participation in most is in critical decline.
A recently launched volunteer recruitment program hopes to see the recruitment of new volunteer personnel, but in roles which serve the logistical needs of the organization as a priority. Currently, more than 500 hours of training is needed for an individual to become a certified Firefighter I and EMT Basic in Nevada.
“The bottom line still remains that additional staff level personnel are going to be needed,” stated Carlini. “Balancing the financial reality of providing a competitive wage, adding additional personnel, working to retain current employees, and providing for capital equipment purchases is a huge challenge, as there is only so much funding available.”
The volunteer program is 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 is not 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.”
The East Fork Fire Protection District Standards of Cover has been developed to translate the general needs and objectives of the District as it relates to the allocation of resources to achieve the self‐imposed standards which are drawn from several recognized sources, according to the district.
The district added that the proposed document is not intended to define in specific detail the finite changes that would support the standards. The document will serve as a recommended body of ideas for the administration to consider and to guide future budget development and procedural considerations and implementation.
“The document was developed without the use of a consultant and was truly an in-house work effort,” Carlini said.
The East Fork Professional Firefighters Association were represented by Battalion Chief Troy Valenzuela, Fire Captain Ron Santos, and Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Wennhold. Volunteer members included Dave Thomas and Bob Spellberg. Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson facilitated the effort.