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Firefighters union: Town ignored warnings that department was on life support

Updated March 11, 2023 - 4:42 pm

Since local first-responders dropped a bombshell 56-point list of complaints about their working conditions and boss earlier this week, they say ambulance units in Pahrump have been downgraded and are not being equipped with advanced cardiac care and pain medication.

Emergency calls to 911 dispatchers here have been placed on hold because of chronic understaffing, they say, and some firefighters have been mandated to work multiple 24-hour shifts, clocking up to 120 hours in five days just to keep ambulances operating.

Pahrump Valley Fire & Rescue has eight vacancies for firefighter/paramedic positions, according to the union, and the staffing shortage “prompts nearly daily forced overtime and places tremendous strain on the members.”

That’s all according to an open letter sent to the Pahrump Valley Times late Friday night from a spokesperson for Pahrump Valley Firefighters IAFF Local 4068.

OPEN LETTER

The letter comes four days after members of the local firefighters union announced they had taken a second vote of “no confidence” in Chief Scott Lewis, the 20-year veteran leader who heads Pahrump Valley Fire & Rescue and serves as Nye County’s emergency manager. The union has asked Lewis to resign or face termination.

“A vote of no confidence in a fire chief is not something done lightly,” the union members wrote in their latest letter. “It is an extreme measure taken during extremely dangerous times when management is doing nothing and had done nothing for an extended period of time to address lethal concerns.”

The union told the Pahrump Valley Times that its senior leadership did not push for the vote against Lewis, rather it was a “grassroots effort” from a strong majority of its members.

Union members say they have “tried other avenues” to force change within their ranks, but their recommendations to officials have been ignored for years.

“When in no certain terms our negotiation team told the town that that fire department would not survive the next few years in its 2022 failed collective bargaining agreement negotiations, they were told it was none of their concern if the fire department continued to exist or not and that they could always leave the fire department if they like it,” the union claims.

Pahrump Town Manager Timothy Sutton issued a response on Saturday afternoon to the union‘s latest remarks:

“In its initial letter regarding the vote of no confidence, the union indicated that it had no desire or intent to ‘initiate a back and forth in a public space.‘ The Town shares this desire. Many of the points raised by the union are inaccurate, misstated, or falsely attributed to Chief Lewis. However, as previously stated, several of the union’s concerns are legitimate and the Town is committed to addressing them in the appropriate forums. The Town agrees with the union that debating these issues via social and other media is unproductive.”

Shortly after the firefighters union announced its second “no confidence” vote in the chief earlier this week, Sutton called the action an “unfortunate, retaliatory move.”

“The town recognizes the long hours our first responders put in and the dangerous, even life-threatening situations they encounter on a daily basis,” he said. “The town is committed to addressing issues raised by the union in the appropriate forums with the resources available.”

You can read reaction from the community here.

Contact Editor Brent Schanding at bschanding@pvtimes.com

This story has been updated to include a response from Pahrump Town Manager Tim Sutton.

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