It is so interesting to read John O’Brien’s comments about how difficult it was for him to “drop the fork and respond to a call,” and that there were just one or two people running all the calls, which is a stretch. Yes, some people would go on most calls and some would go on some of the calls, but he is being disingenuous when he implies very few personnel ever showed up at the station or the scene. Just talk with former Pahrump Valley Fire Department volunteers about this and not the current paid fire personnel, who have an agenda to keep the county commissioners from disbanding the current situation.
Having been in a volunteer department in Oregon and a paid employee of the largest fire district in Oregon, in terms of personnel and stations, both John O’Brien and the union President Justin Snow are spouting some of the same ole’ comments union employees say when their paychecks are threatened. The comments that Justin Snow gave are the normal canned answers that fire unions use when they perceive of a threat to their livelihood. I know, as I was a member of a large fire union in Oregon.
I also was a volunteer with Pahrump Valley when it was mostly volunteer, and although sometimes the response differed, depending on the calls, Pahrump still had about 75 volunteers, with a number of those responding to most calls. To say that mid-sized communities (like Pahrump) cannot support a volunteer or combination department is totally false.
The facts are about 71 percent of all fire personnel in the United States are volunteer personnel. Look at Fallon as a great example, which has an ISO Class 1 in the hydrant areas, and a Class 3 in the rural areas of over 400 square miles, with a population of over 25,000.
The problem with the Pahrump Valley Fire-Rescue is, it is more of an ambulance service instead of a fire department — and yes, the personnel make a rather huge monthly sum and I am sure do not want that gravytrain to be derailed.
I was a captain deputy fire marshal, doing life and fire inspections, and a shift fire investigator before retiring from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue in Oregon. One thing I am familiar with is ISO ratings of a community. Currently the ISO rating for the community of Pahrump is a 6 for fire hydrant within 1,000 feet, a class 8 with a fire hydrant within 5 miles and a class 9 past the 5 miles.
Guess what the ISO ratings were when it was a volunteer fire department back in 2000-2001? It was also a 6, 8, and 9.
The money this fire department is currently spending does not correlate to a well organized or functioning fire department. Even if there were 20 ambulances in this community, it would not help the ISO rating, which is what results in the fire insurance premium we all pay for our property. I always tell people if you want to know how well a fire department functions, just look at the fire hydrants. There are so many that are covered with brush, which tells me that this fire department does not even take the time to keep track of, and do normal yearly maintenance work (which is part of being a fire department), and is the fire department’s main source of water.
I applaud the county commissioners for looking at turning this fire department back into a fire department that will function as a fire department.
In the Uniform Fire Code, it states eight different items that a fire department is authorized to enforce within its scope of existence. Seven of those items pertain to aspects of fire prevention activities and only one item deals with the suppression or extinguishing of dangerous or hazardous fires. Not one of them pertain to having an ambulance service. But this community, what it has, is an ambulance service and not much of a fire department. It is time for the leaders of the county to again, have a fire department in the Pahrump Valley.
Gary J. Toll