ON YOUR SIDE: Fire crew forced to ignore call for help

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Updated: 6/23 12:13 am
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- When there's a fire or medical emergency, every second counts. If something were to happen to you, you probably hope the nearest crew responds.

But that may not happen, and it did not happen in a recent incident at Boomtown. On Your Side investigates why boundary lines get in the way, in some cases.

On October 24, a guest at Boomtown suffered cardiac arrest. The nearest fire station is right across the street from the Boomtown resort. But Sierra Fire Station 35 is operated by Truckee Meadows Fire, for Washoe County.

Station 35 did not respond, even though they were called. Instead, Reno Fire sent its own crew since the Boomtown Resort lies within City of Reno boundaries.

Tim O'Brien is the Division Chief for the Reno Fire Department. He said, "It's just not the way we conduct business.  We don't go into other jurisdictions and deliver service. Nobody does that."

This case did not have a happy ending. The man who suffered the heart attack did not survive. It is important to point out Boomtown staff did administer CPR, and both REMSA and Reno Fire responded within minutes.

Response time in this case may not have made a difference. But it might the next time, and the next time it could be any one of us.

Many say part of the blame lies with de-consolidation. When the city and county split up fire resources two years ago, following a bitter and drawn out battle, automatic aid disappeared.

Truckee Meadows Fire Chief Charlie Moore said his crews are not allowed to go into city territory unless they're asked. Even when it is right across the street.

Moore declined to go on camera for this story, but issued this statement. "We have been advised by both Reno Management and their legal staff that TMFPD is not to respond on behalf of the city without a specific request to do so."

Contractual agreements also prevented Truckee Meadows Fire from calling for mutual aid sooner when a house caught fire in Hidden Valley in November.  Although the city disputes it, and says Truckee Meadows could have called for help sooner than they did that night.

Even if the public would say not to worry about jurisdictional protocol in a life-and-death situation, O'Brien said, "It's not really an option. We need to use the mutual aid system."

Mutual aid means one agency can call another for help.  But there was a contentious battle over the wording of the mutual aid agreement after the Hidden Valley fire.
O'Brien points in the Boomtown case, the original call did not go through 911. Boomtown staff called the Fire Department and Paramedics directly.

O'Brien says its important to always call 911. "It activates a two-tiered system which will ensure that you get the closest response from the Fire Department and REMSA," O'Brien said, meaning the closest response within that jurisdiction.

Talks are underway to address this situation and improve cooperation between the two agencies. Reno City Councilwoman Neoma Jardon says she thinks something needs to change.

In the meantime, incidents like the one at Boomtown serve as an important reminder: under the current system, jurisdictional boundaries matter. In some cases, even more than life and death.

"We cannot ignore those agreements," O'Brien said.

After the Hidden Valley fire, State Senator Ben Kieckefer brought the city and county together for what have been described as "very productive talks" on the issue of mutual aid. But there are two different issues here, mutual aid and automatic aid.

It remains to be seen how the city and county will address the issue of automatic aid, which would allow the closest crew to respond in an emergency.
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kdavis52 - 2/9/2014 11:26 AM
1 Vote
Because Boomtown is an entity itself why can't they have their own Certified Rescue Squad? If there is a question of City versus County or Borders what else can you do? Make your own.

Henrietta - 2/9/2014 5:08 AM
2 Votes
First off I would like to acknowledge the ignorance and stupidity of this situation it shouldn't even be a discussion in the first place its disgraceful and I actually feel stupid for the fire crews who have to abide by this jurisdiction rule. The fire crews might as well be gang bangers who endanger their very own rather then making the community feel safe that's the way I see it . In all reality how does this benefit the fire crews and the community what will the fire crews gain from this jurisdiction rule??... What will the communities and citizens gain from this??.... whats the purpose of being in a job field that consist of saving lives when ur prevented from doing Just that. Who is responsible for these ignorant limitations ??.. where is the ownership that fire crews should have when situations like This happen ? Regardless of any situation if help is needed ....u help....If some is dying ...u help ...

Henrietta - 2/9/2014 5:01 AM
0 Votes
UrUFirst off I would like to acknowledge the ignorance and stupidity of this situation it shouldn't even be a discussion in the first place its disgraceful and I actually feel stupid for the fire crews who have to abide by this jurisdiction rule. The fire crews might as well be gang bangers who endanger their very own rather then mashinmaking the community feel safe that's the way I see it . In all reality how does this benefit the fire crews and the community what will the fire crews gain this jurisdiction rule??... What will the communities and citizens gain from this??.... whats the purpose of being in job field that consist of saving lives when ur prevented from doing Just thaw. Who is responsible for these ignorant limitations ??.. where is the ownership that fire crews should have wwhen situations like This happen ? regardless of any situation or if help is needed ....u help....If some is dying help ...

Stone - 2/8/2014 12:32 PM
1 Vote
The county will continue to understaff their department, run calls with 2 and 3 person crews, and rely on surrounding departments to pick up there slack. While raising taxes and talking trash about there neighboring agencies, its no wonder Chief Moore has a horrible reputation. The county should focus on relocating there stations, whereas several are surrounded by Reno property, and strive to staff there stations with enough personnel to respond a engine and water truck. The de-consolidation was a win for Reno tax payers as in there ISO rating will remain a 3 and insurance rate will go down. It will be interesting when the county releases it's ISO rating and budget compared to previous years.

buacl - 2/7/2014 11:49 PM
1 Vote
So someone dies? A fire station across the street? You don't save a life until you are told to? What are you trained for? If this is really taxes and stations on the first call list, the victim's family should have a lawsuit. If I go to Boomtown and eat the sandy, grainy lobster (I know it's the eggs. So gross. All you can eat buffet!) Have a reaction..after going to Cabela's, so much money,....if my pants were on fire,... I'd have to wait until they resolved who got the last fire and who called who what and burn to death while men are standing around saying...that's not my job..... If you have the knowledge to save a life you should be obligated to do so. If the price isn't right or egos are so bloated, then find another job. I thought first responders loved saving lives.

batchley - 2/7/2014 5:46 PM
1 Vote
To say that going into another jurisdiction to render aid "is just not done" is untrue. They need to take a look at Sacramento City & County who dropped boarders years ago. If you call 911 there you get the closest fire department, regardless of jurisdiction. Sometimes the jurisdiction it belongs to never responds as it was handled by others. It can be done and should. The battle between TMFD and RFD needs to stop being at the expense of their tax payers and they need to learn to play with others.

fischer - 2/7/2014 2:46 PM
2 Votes
Prior to Reno and Truckie Meadows merging there was automatic aid. Go to Vegas their fire service is professional. They don't have little problems like this. Problem is the kids in Reno can't play in the sand box together. Engine 35 should have run on this call. Engine 6 should have been on the call to Hidden Valley. These childern are putting the fire service back 50 years. Childish behavior on both sides. First a house burns down and now a life is lost. Channel 4 go to Vegas and see how they do it. They are professionals not children who can't play in the sand box together.

Nevada Willis - 2/7/2014 1:29 PM
3 Votes
Stone (and a few others,) please read the story. The quote doesn't refer to this incident. In this case Truckee Meadows wasn't allowed to respond across the street INTO Reno, not the reverse as some folks have taken from this story. Tim O'Brien was quoted as saying, "It's just not the way we conduct business. We don't go into other jurisdictions and deliver service. Nobody does that." What BS! Maybe it is that way in Reno. I'm glad I live in an unincorporated area. Thankfully when I was on the job I worked in a region (like MANY regions) that had an integrated automatic aid system. The closest stations responded to emergency incidents regardless as to where the boundaries lay. Folks from the "big" department resisted at first until statistics showed that they were actually receiving more assistance from the "little departments" than they gave. So they provided more truck support for commercial fires in the smaller districts to keep the exchange in balance. This event illustrates a throwback to the 1960s when territorialism trumped public safety. I had hoped that we all had evolved to where politics wouldn't just let someone die. Fortunately most regions have evolved beyond this. Apparently Reno needs to take a hard look at its response procedures. Please don't take my comments as critical of the Reno fire crews. Those guys are quite good. I also have high regard for the Truckee Meadows personnel. What we have is an out-of-date policy issue that clearly needs to be addressed.

Stone - 2/7/2014 12:33 PM
2 Votes
I applaud City of Reno for NOT providing aid to Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. The county raised taxes on all property owners, and pushed for de-consolidation. ALL the county stations were staffed with four before the brake up. Time to step up Chief Moore and give the tax payers the service they deserve. The blame game Chief Moore and his lobbyist continues to amaze me.

Justdoit - 2/7/2014 8:06 AM
1 Vote
What Moore is not saying is that he has told his crews they can't request Reno's assistance unless he approves it. Prime example is the Richard West home nearly burning to the ground in Hidden Valley because they would not request mutual aid. Hey Charley don't be a hypocrite!
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