The Ely Times
The last meeting on the White Pine County Fire Commission’s tour to the outlining areas was held in Baker on July 31.
Baker’s Volunteer Fire Chief Ben Roberts stood before the Baker Town Council and White Pine County Fire Commission and read a letter with a list of items, but mainly concerns the department had about various items, such as mutual aid agreements, communication issues, and training opportunities.
Roberts indicated a similar letter was submitted earlier this year in April, and noted that they failed to receive a reply.
“To date our department has failed to receive a single official communication from the commission, to the department, or it’s many volunteers, which is unacceptable,” Roberts said. “Communication of timely correct information should be the number one goal of any emergency service and you have failed to provide that so far.”
The letter goes on to explain how the Volunteer Fire Department in Baker carries several names, from Snake Valley Volunteer Fire and EMS Service, Baker Volunteer Department, to Station 3.
They provide fire and MS coverage not only to the town of Baker, but also Great Basin National Park, and areas near and far from the station, such as Spring Valley and Pleasant Valley, in the most remote locatiobs in White Pine County. In addition, Snake Valley Fire and EMS also supports Millard County by responding to incidents on the Utah Side of Snake Valley.
Snake Valley is a small but growing community made of up of young families, retirees, ranches, many local businesses, three schools and more than 150,000 visitors who come each year to see Nevada’s only National park.
Roberts said, “We have a variety of medical and trauma calls each year, wildfires, motor vehicles accidents, search and rescue incidents, and an occassional structural fire.”
Volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds. Roberts said many residents are new but several have spent their entire lives in Baker.
“We are a close knit community and we want to provide the best patient care and fire protection possible to our family, friends and visitors,” Roberts said.
The letter questioned training for volunteers, noting that a volunteer has to travel to Ely, one hour each way for training, and they don’t feel it’s as efficient as sending one trainer to Baker to provide the training to several volunteers.
Roberts explained they have a volunteer EMT who has been unable to complete her testing since she adopted a child. “Who is responsible for this?” Roberts questioned the fire commission.
Mutal aid agreements with Millard County, Garrison Utah and Great Basin National Park were also discussed. Roberts did thank the commission for the swap of the old rescue engine for the wildland engine.
EMS runs have the ambulance meet the Baker ambulance in route, typically half way so patients can receive a higher level of care sooner.
“Snake Valley volunteers already spend 2-3 hours on a call, even when they are able to meet an ambulance.
This has happened so far, and we’d like to see it continue,” Roberts.
The letter covered additional issues such as assistance with volunteer recruitment, the consideration of a 4×4 ambulance, and a small list of supplies such as headlamps, hand held radios, EMS supplies, and the repair of an AED machine.
Fire Commissioner Richard Howe explained how the fire commission was here to ensure they had all the equipment necessary. Each commissioner asked questions regarding prioritized items, any structural issues with the fire station, and any additional equipment.
Roberts said, “I would say our first priority is to have our current EMT who completed the training course, unfortunately the day the completed the training they adopted a new child, so she wasn’t able to take the testing, so she needs that test, I have sent emails to Ross, Bodie, Ralph, and the response has been she needs to go find the testing….that’s unacceptable.”
Local resident Robin Crouch said, “I live here in Baker, I understand there are budgetary constraints, but I think some of these things are establishing lines of communication.”
Fire Commissioner Laurie Carson said, “Communication is huge, but I am hoping that will continue to be so, I am going to be your liaison to the fire district, get my number, try not to holler at me, and if I don’t have the answer I will find it for you.”
She did stress following the chain of command.
Fire Commissioner Travis Godon asked if there was anything structurally that needed to be repaired.
Roberts said, “Nothing structure wise, our station is in pretty good shape, probably structurally that we didn’t add is to have a washer and dryer. When we go out on a car fire, or something, you have nasty things, to not have to take our gear back to our houses and have to wash it there would be great.”
Fire Commissioner Shane Bybee said, “My other concern, I see a list of your small equipment but as far as rolling stock, are things running good? I understand we do need we need to look at getting a 4×4 ambulance, but everything else is in good repair?”
Roberts replied, “We have the best second hand equipment in the county.”
Fire Commissioner Ian Bullis said. “Talk to me about the mutual aid agreements, and I apologize for not communicating, but I think it got lost in the shuffle with everything that was going on at that time, “
Roberts said, “Not sure about the Millard county one, if it’s expired, I know they have one from 15 years ago. When there is a fire over there, they dispatch us, and vice versa. My guess is that we don’t have an actual mutal aid agreement, but we help each other.”
Bullis said, “The goal of this process is so that there is more funding freed up, and less bureaucracy.”
Howe explained how this commission is dedicated to making things work. He said, “You are 65 miles away, we want to do everything we can, we are dedicated to spreading those funds out to make sure the community is safe.”
One local resident said, “Mowing on the shoulder highways hasn’t been done in two years, and the danger for a fire is extremely high.”
Howe said he would contact NDOT.
Crouch spoke again, “When this whole subject first came up, I got very excited about reading the contract, and it was the most bare bone contract, the things were asking for and things you were doing weren’t guaranteed in the contract in any way.
“I appreciate so much how honorably you folks as commissioners have been dealing with this through the different stages. Some of us feel more insecure than others, you guys have done an amazing job, and the EMS staff out of Ely, they have been very responsive, I still feel like we are hanging in the wind a bit, but what you are doing is wonderful, it seems to be working out well.”
Bullis said, “I’ll take the blame for the contract being simple and that’s because I don’t want the 2,000 page documents, two pages would be nice to look at and understand what’s happening, and part of the insecurity came from a misnomer was that the City of Ely was taking over the fire district and that was not the case, it’s never been the case, we simply transferred paid staff to them, we focus all our finances to a Fire Chief, and in turn that support goes to you guys.”
It was suggested to have additional meetings in Baker, Howe thought once a year would be great.
Bybee said, “I do think that if you feel strongly enough that if a meeting is necessary, we can’t take action, as Richard said, but if you feel you’d get more turnout and input from the community, then I’m willing to come down.”