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Amargosa working to fix certification concerns of volunteer fire department

The concerns about a proper certification of a volunteer fire department in Amargosa Valley continue to persist amid the ongoing training, officials said.

The question of training and licensing was precipitated by several incidents in Amargosa Valley over the last year, some that were witnessed by Pahrump and county firefighters.

Vance Payne, director of Nye County Emergency Services, said that while fire department personnel did not have certification to be firefighters and did not have the licenses to drive fire trucks previously, many of the issues have been resolved.

“When crews from Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue and Nye County Station 51 arrived on scene (of a fire), they witnessed individuals with no fire gear cutting a hole in the roof of a manufactured home that was on fire,” Payne said.

Following the incident a couple years ago, Payne wrote a letter to Amargosa Valley Town Manager Mike Cottingham and the Amargosa Valley Town Board, highlighting the concerns and “the standards of the industry that drive these concerns and how they can be resolved.”

Officials undertook several measures since that incident.

Fire trainers from Nye County Emergency Management developed a training program that was executed by Station 51 personnel in early 2016. Driver’s training and licensing for most personnel were completed and a basic exterior firefighting course was also delivered and completed, Payne said. The Amargosa Valley Town Board also hired a training officer from Arizona to continue these programs.

“Currently, this person has no certifications to deliver certification classes in Nevada,” Payne said. “For their fire department to continue to improve, a plan must be established to deliver certification classes.”

“We started off on a really good path, things improved fast, there’s been certification changes, with no small amount of help from fire training and Station 51. Since that point in time, they have hired a fire training officer who is not certified with the state of Nevada. The concerns have already been voiced about that problem from the State Fire Marshal’s office,” Payne said.

Payne said he has a liability concern about uncertified personnel.

“I still have concerns about liability before the Board of County Commissioners and for the town of Amargosa because of those certification issues,” he said.

As another fire recently broke out in Amargosa Valley on Nov. 21, 2016 Payne said Amargosa Valley volunteer firefighters were working without proper protection again.

“Members of the Amargosa Valley Fire Department once again chose to cut a ventilation hole in the roof of a manufactured home that was on fire,” Payne said. “This flagrant disregard for safety standards takes us right back to the original concerns. Mutual aid companies responding to a scenario like this are placed in the difficult position of possibly having to go into a dangerous rescue mode if Amargosa Valley crews fall through the roof. This increases risk to the other responders considerably and would be unnecessary if Amargosa Valley firefighters would stay within their scope of training.”

The training for the Amargosa Valley Fire Department will continue under the county programs and Amargosa Valley town manager, officials said.

Also at the same meeting, Nye County commissioners didn’t make a decision regarding a plan of operation for emergency services after Amargosa Valley officials withdrew their request for owning the fire department’s equipment.

In October, county commissioners set a 60-day deadline for the Amargosa Valley Town Board to provide a plan of operation for emergency services. They also requested to define a jurisdiction that will run the equipment and update outstanding memorandums of understanding.

The county currently owns the fire trucks that are used by the Amargosa Valley Fire Department. Additionally, insurance coverage is a blanket policy provided by Nye County.

The Amargosa Valley Town Board originally wanted to request all trucks be signed over to the town and insurance become its responsibility. After review of their progress and a review of costs, the town board withdrew its original request.

Cottingham said the town wants to continue the relationship with the county.

“I think everybody realizes the value of staying associated with the county,” Cottingham said.

Nye County commissioners said they don’t expect to discuss a plan of operation for emergency service in Amargosa Valley in the future. Commissioners, however, expect a continued compliance with all applicable rules and liability protections.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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