Firehouse® Interview: Las Vegas Fire Chief Mario H. Treviño

Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner interviews the fire service veteran who has led Las Vegas Fire & Rescue since 1996.

Mario H. Treviño has been the chief of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue since 1996. He has 28 years of experience in the fire service, having previously served with the Seattle Fire Department, where he rose through the ranks to the level of deputy fire chief. Treviño graduated summa cum laude from Seattle...

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I know that may not seem like such an important concern, but to me I think the biggest task for any fire department is to increase the public perception and to give the public a sense that they're being taken care of. And I think continuity and filling the public's expectations are the paramount things in that process. If they believe are things are going well and that they're safe and they're being taken care of, then in a lot of ways they are because perception in that sense becomes reality. And so the red color is really consistent with what people not only like, but what they expect.

Firehouse: I know you're doing a lot of different things with internal wellness and you've had other people like a full-time crisis manager come in, things like that. Can you explain where you're going in that area? I know they're two different things.

Treviño: Well, as far as the CISD (critical incident stress debriefing) coordinator, we were able to get a full-time position for that this past year, which we never had in the past, and I'm very much a believer in the debriefing process.

Having been a firefighter for many years and remembering the days before debriefing was part of the fire service, I think there were a lot of emotional and mental health concerns that were attributable to the trauma that people see on a day-to-day basis.

And if you're ever debriefed, it's been demonstrated that you can reduce that stress level, that you can have a happier home life and that, in essence, can make you a healthier person. And we all know that a fire department is nothing without firefighters, and healthy firefighters are the best kind of firefighters you can have. So we've put a lot of resources into that program and I think it's working extremely well.

We were lucky to get a very skilled and experienced coordinator who is really dedicated to the program, carries a phone 24 hours a day and is pretty much always working. So, yeah, we're very happy with that, and I'm hoping to expand that program even further.

Firehouse: Are there other plans for the future? Do you have other things you can work on or are working on, other programs that you would like to see?

Treviño: We have so many things going on. I think we've touched on the important ones. Trying to keep pace with the growth is our biggest, our number-one concern, of course.

We have changed over to a new type of rescue. We've changed over to the medium-duty rescue unit chassis, which we think are a lot more efficient and a lot more user friendly in terms of use by the paramedics. As I said, our EMS program is I think going to continue to make our jobs safer and easier.

Firehouse: I saw something you said about apparatus leasing.

Treviño: One of the products of what we call explosive growth here is that it's hard to maintain a fleet, so what we end up with is heavily utilization and I would consider overutilization of apparatus. So the best way to get a large infusion of new replacement apparatus is I think through a lease.

Now, I'm sure you're familiar with government. The hardest dollars to come up with are the capital-improvement dollars, the large cash disbursements, which is usually where fire grants come from and they fall into that category. With fire engines selling in the mid-$300,000 range and with ladder trucks between $700,000 and $800,000, it doesn't take too many to add up into the millions of dollars. So what we're looking at is a lease program where we will renew apparatus on a constant basis through a lease, so that we don't keep them too long. I think four or five years would be the target.

If we were able to turn our apparatus over in five years, I think that we would see a marked improvement in our maintenance and the percentage of the time that our rigs are up and running.

Firehouse: In some of the past newsletters there have been a lot of reports on multiple-alarm fires in certain types of buildings? Is that constant?

Treviño: I would consider it regular. I don't think constant is quite the right word, but -

Firehouse: It's for varied reasons?

Treviño: Right. It's not unusual for us to have fires in what we call "stick cities," which are developments that are in the framing stage. There's virtually no fire protection there. The dry wall is not up yet and most importantly no one lives there yet, so even a small fire will become a large fire before it's reported. It's not unusual for us to have multiple home fires in a construction area maybe once a month.