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Fighting fire with desire

Boulder City’s fire department has been busy lately. Busy, that is, preparing. Like any good firefighters, the best work they’ll ever do doesn’t involve actual fires. Rather, it involves prevention, education, training, and readiness, just in case those rare emergencies arise.

Did you know that fire-related responses typically constitute only 1-2% of our fire department’s annual emergency call volume? On the other hand, over 75% are for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), a growing necessity as our population continues to age.

One of the most effective ways our fire department helps to prevent safety hazards is through education outreach. Such services include annual fire inspections and community classes for CPR, first aid, bleeding, and babysitting safety, among others. They also operate a homeless outreach team.

No matter how well we implement preventative measures, some emergencies inevitably happen. Fires occasionally ignite, strokes and heart attacks still occur, vehicles sometimes collide, and life never really stops being a risky business. So, Boulder City’s firefighters still need to be ready to respond.

One way our fire department works hard to improve readiness is by reducing response times. In life-or-death situations, precious minutes and sometimes even seconds can make all the difference. Having gear, vehicles, and adequate personnel ready when dispatch relays that urgent 911 call is important. But travel distance is also critical and one of the big reasons why Station 122 is being built at the corner of Quartzite and Nevada Way. Whether you agree with that location, one of the primary objectives of this small satellite facility will be to reduce response times to our lakeside citizens.

Another way to improve readiness is through training. Which is why the satellite station isn’t the only fire department expansion currently underway. A new training facility near the existing fire station on Elm Street is also in the works. The training facility will be a two-story, Class A burn tower that provides a ready means for live burn training inside specially constructed burn rooms. Burn training is currently cost-prohibitive and too infrequent for our firefighters, since the nearest burn tower is in North Las Vegas. That requires spending tens of thousands of dollars each year in overtime costs for only once-a-year training.

The new burn tower will eliminate those costs by allowing firefighter training to be done next door while still on duty. The new facility will also facilitate other types of training, including hose lays, forcible entries, fire streams, HAZMAT, aircraft firefighting, technical rescues, ladder drills, firefighter survival, rope rescues, and search-and-rescue training. Outdoor props will enhance that training with a car fire prop, a helicopter prop, electrical poles, and other solar and electrical components designed to simulate emergency procedures like vehicle, palm tree, and electrocution victim rescues.

Facilities such as these aren’t cheap, of course, collectively costing millions of dollars. But they constitute an investment in the future of our city’s award-winning public safety departments. You don’t have to agree with every one of the fire department’s requests or all of their policies and procedures. But most of us agree that having a stellar public safety record is one of the big reasons why we love living in Boulder City and raising our families here.

Besides, improvements like these have been a long time coming. And our fire department works hard to operate on a limited budget while continually seeking financial and logistical help from other jurisdictions. For instance, Henderson Fire Department sends 16 firefighters to Boulder City at no charge whenever a fire occurs here.

Clark County also recently awarded over $433,000 in Community Development Block Grant Covid (CDBG-CV) funds to assist with two projects. About $100,000 of that will help to upgrade the fire department’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC), which until now has operated out of a small fire station classroom and been woefully inadequate from a communications and technology standpoint. Upgrades will include additional dedicated phone lines, laptop computers, SMART boards, and new AV equipment. The rest of the grant will enable the purchase of a new metal warehouse. This will allow for centralization of all Covid-19 and EOC supplies, which were previously stored at St. Jude’s Ranch and now scattered among 13 local facilities.

The fire department also recently obtained a highly competitive $122,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant that will allow the purchase of 25 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ten portable radios. The grant will not only outfit our firefighters with a second set of PPE to use whenever the first set is being decontaminated but also provide enough extras for our reserve firefighters.

Firefighters have responded quickly to save more than one of my own family members’ lives. Maybe yours too? Regardless, we all owe them a big debt of gratitude for working around the clock to keep us alive and healthy. Please join me in letting them know how much we appreciate everything they do.

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