Nevada Fire Official Fuming over Truck Dispute

July 7, 2008
A recent decision to repair and reallocate fire equipment as apparently angered the district's volunteer firefighters.

ELKO - A recent decision to repair and reallocate fire equipment in the Tecoma Fire Protection District has apparently angered the district's volunteer firefighters, whose deputy chief called the move a "terrorist attack" that was "unconstitutional and criminal."

Brent Palmer said "we had storm troopers roll in here and literally strip us of our fire protection." The deputy chief said he heard different explanations for why the equipment was removed and charged that "somebody is lying." He said he is voicing the frustrations on behalf of the volunteer fire district, which includes roughly 20 active members.

The equipment includes state-owned structure and brush engines and a county-owned brush rescue pumper. The Nevada Division of Forestry removed the two engines because they need repairs, said NDF Northern Region Forester Tom Turk. The division is evaluating the small brush rescue pumper for re-assignment, he said.

Equipment is assigned based upon criteria such as the number of fires, values at risk and trained membership to use the equipment, Turk said.

The volunteer firefighters still have a fire protection engine titled to both Elko County and the district, and a heavy brush truck for wildland urban interface fire protection, Turk said.

"At this time, they have equipment deemed adequate to protect themselves from (fire) threats," Turk said.

Palmer said the "only thing they left us with is the brush truck" and he said it is "reported down and out of service." Turk said the truck was not out of service as of Monday, although it needed repairs to a heater leak.

In an e-mail to Elko County Manager Rob Stokes, Palmer said "the last remaining piece of fire equipment left in the Pilot Valley Fire Station (engine) has been removed by me and secured at my residence."

The Tecoma Fire Protection District's primary responsibilities are to protect land in Pilot Valley and Montello's town limits, Turk said.

NDF manages the fire protection districts in Elko County in cooperation with the county. In a press release, the county said it supports the Nevada Division of Forestry's administrative actions with the fire equipment.

There were no fires burning in Elko County this morning, although there were lightning-sparked fires west of Montello on Murdock Mountain Sunday. Palmer said his district saw fires last week. Last summer, it responded to some area fires on its own, he said.

Palmer said his district has not had a good working relationship with the Nevada Division of Forestry and it has "stolen" trucks from the district in the past."

Turk said there have been "administrative-related issues" in the area for a number of years. He declined to discuss them. He said the district receives "mutual and automatic aid in the event of an emergency."

"We are not acting in a fashion that is knee-jerk," Turk said. "We are working toward a goal of evaluating county fire protection as directed."

Republished with permission from The Elko Daily Free Press

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