Reno Scrambles to Shore up Aging Fleet of Fire Trucks

Reno’s City Council is moving to shore up the Nevada city’s aging fleet of fire engines after its last functioning ladder truck went down twice in the last 10 days.

The Reno Gazette Journal reports the situation reached a critical level when the firefighters temporarily were left with no way to rescue victims above the third floor from outside the building in the event of an emergency.

The council approved grant money last week to buy a new ladder truck and the city manager is preparing an emergency provision to buy a used one from a volunteer department in Pennsylvania.

Four trucks currently are equipped with aerial ladders. But one can only be used for training because it’s no longer safe enough to drive on city streets.

One had a “catastrophic failure” a couple of weeks ago and was taken out of service. And another is in the shop awaiting parts for a repair job likely to take months.

That’s left the city with one functioning truck, which went down July 12.

Maintenance crews had it back up and running the next day. But it went down again and was out of service until last Monday afternoon. The truck also is expected to be out of service off and on over the next week for continued maintenance.

“The risk is with the number of high-rise buildings in the city, anything over three stories could present a rescue challenge,” Reno Fire Chief Dave Cochran said. “We need an aerial ladder for that.”

Without a ladder truck, firefighters would be forced to use stairwells inside the burning building to rescue victims, Cochran said. That’s neither the fastest nor the safest means to mount a rescue, he said.

Cochran added that Reno could also rely, if needed, on outside agencies such as the city of Sparks or East Fork Fire District, which have ladder trucks. Ladder trucks generally have a 15-year lifespan on the front line.

The situation concerns Reno Fire Fighters Local 731 as well.

Tom Dunn, the local union’s vice president, remembers when 12 people died in the arson fire that leveled the Mizpah Hotel in 2006.

“If we had another incident like the Mizpah fire happen on a day when (the ladder truck) is not in service, we’d have no ladder to provide high flow water or ladder rescue,” he said.

Given the critical state of Reno’s fire fleet, City Manager Sabra Newby is preparing to use an emergency provision in state law that allows the city to escape regular bidding requirements to buy the used truck in Pennsylvania. That truck was built in 2004, has 12,000 miles on it and would cost $200,000.