News 4 On Your Side: Agreement on Mutual Aid for Fires is not Mutual

Contributor: Joe Hart
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Updated: 12/03/2013 7:11 pm
(December 2, 2013.  KRNV, Reno NV)

There are growing questions tonight about the response to a fire that destroyed a house in Hidden Valley on Saturday night, November 30th.

Fire officials say the fire had been burning for 15 minutes in the garage before it was even detected and called in.  But it's what happened after that that's raising questions.
The fire at the home on Hidden Valley Drive was reported at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday.
That's Washoe County's terretory so they responded within several minutes with a two man crew.   Another county crew from Sun Valley was on scene within 14 minutes of the original call.  A third county crew from Damonte Ranch was not called because it was training at the time.

The home and garage were soon fully engulfed but the county waited for 25 minutes to call in mutual aid from Reno.  And a Reno crew responded within five minutes of getting the call.  

So we asked those in charge whether the response went according to plan.

"It worked as well as it possibly could have given the restraints the city of Reno has placed on us. And that constraint is we may not call for mutual aid unless we have a  command officer on scene,"  said Truckee Meadows Fire Chief Charles Moore.

Reno fire officials insisted on putting the language in the mutual aid agreement.  But they say the policy doesn't always have to be followed.

"The language in the contract does include an exception that if they don't have a chief officer on the scene they can make that assessment and they can make that call to the city of Reno and we're going to come provide assistance if they do," said city manager Andrew Clinger."

Clearly there's a difference of opinion on how the mutual aid agreement should be interpreted in the wake of deconsolidation of the county and city fire departments. 
But the city insists that language doesn't really matter because they would respond whenever asked.

  The fact is mutual aid was delayed in this fire and it could very well be the next time too because these two agencies are not on the same page.   It's going to take people higher up on both sides sitting down and coming to an agreement on how mutual aid calls should be handled before the situation will change.   News 4 will continue investigating this story to get all the answers.

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