She’d rather give you a hug and a hot meal than utter a harsh word about anyone or anything. But when it comes to speaking up on behalf of the mountain, longtime Kyle Canyon resident Rose Meranto isn’t shy about making herself perfectly clear.
Meranto, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday and has lived in her cabin in the pines since the 1970s, is joining the rising voices of discontent critical of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to help balance the state’s budget by closing Nevada Division of Forestry Fire Station No. 1.
Other areas slated for similar changes include the Elko and Eureka fire districts. A rural fire crew is also scheduled for elimination.
As a Kyle Canyon resident, I’ve seen the professional work the NDF Station No. 1 firefighters do, whether they’re putting out house fires, responding to medical calls or attacking wildland blazes.
What on the surface looks like a simple cost-saving measure for the state actually would set in motion millions in increased costs for Clark County, which would be forced to build and maintain its own fire station to replace Station No. 1. Neither the current structure that houses Station No. 1 nor the metal building that’s home to Volunteer Station No. 81 would be sufficient to house a CCFD fire crew.
For Meranto and other residents, it’s a matter of sticking with the team that works best in their neighborhoods, which sit at above 7,000 feet in elevation on a mountain that commonly gets heavy snow each winter.
“The fire department has been so instrumental on the mountain for all these years,” she says. “Not just recently, but all through the years and for emergencies of all kinds.”
Meranto recalls an incident in the early 1980s in which a relative became ill before 5 a.m. The visitors began to panic, but Rose simply called Station No. 1, and within minutes emergency medical help had arrived.
While Clark County has a highly skilled fire department, the expense of building a new fire station in tough economic times places an added burden on the county and mountain residents.
Meranto has also seen Station No. 1 combine efforts with CCFD Volunteer Station No. 81 to put out house fires and knock down wildland fires that have threatened the communities several times over the years. While every system can be improved on, this one seems to work.
It also, Meranto notes, keeps homeowners’ insurance costs down.
“We just can’t do without the fire department,” she says. “For those of us who live up here, what is that going to do if we don’t have fire protection? What’s that going to do for our insurance? There are so many ramifications. It’s unspeakable for them to even think of doing away with the fire department.”
Under the state plan, Station No. 1 would be eliminated in 2012. Clark County would assume full fire protection responsibility. Trouble is, the CCFD doesn’t fight forest fires.
What sounds like a cost-savings to the state would merely transfer full fiscal responsibility to the county, which already assumes a majority of the expense. And it remains unclear whether the change would fully free the state of its liability.
“I’m sure there are other avenues the Legislature can follow to cut down on the budget, but, Mother Goose!, not safety issues,” she says. “They cannot toy with our safety.”
The governor would do well stay off the Rose of Mount Charleston’s bad side.
John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-383-0295 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.