There are two drawbacks to using my old-fashioned coffee maker year-round: crunchy coffee full of grounds and the fact that it doesn’t automatically shut down. I have to manually turn off the stove after I use it. Boy, I’m really roughing it.
The consequence of this has been a nagging fear of burning my house down. Anytime I leave the house after my morning routine, I go over to the stove and look at it for about 20 seconds to convince myself that the burner is turned off. If I drive down the road without doing this, I flip the car around and go back to check. Paranoid? Maybe a little.
The last thing I want is to end up being part of some fire inspector’s report saying, “House was burned to a crisp because some moron thought it would be fun to use a percolator on his stove but couldn’t remember to turn off the burner. Left behind a brochure about automatic coffee makers.” But adding to my worry now is all this hubbaloo in the city of Reno and Washoe County about fire protection. A lot of attention has been paid to the area south of town where two big fires happened recently, but what about us folks in the great white north? I put North Valleys and Spanish Springs in adjoining boats, since both are outlying areas surrounded by expanses of sagebrush just waiting for an errant cigarette or lightning strike to wipe us out in a blaze of glory.
To be honest, I am not sure who would come to my aid if my coffee grounds suddenly ignited. There is a fire station on North Virginia Street near the Bonanza casino, but I don’t know who operates it. I am sure there are a great many of us in the entire region who don’t know who will help us if our homes are threatened by fire, we just assume someone in a big red truck will show up with a hose and a ladder. We trust that someone already has figured out all the details.
Maybe that’s where we have gone wrong: Trusting a bunch of politicians to handle a potentially life-threatening affair might not be such a good idea. America’s citizenry is smart enough to know that government can’t be trusted for much, but when it comes to public safety there’s nowhere else to turn. We can deal with a lot of things on our own, but set something on fire and we must be able to count on the safety system set up by our leaders.
If left to their own devices, the firefighters would be just fine. Give them a cup of water and an address and they’ll have that pesky blaze out in no time. I have met quite a few firefighters in my time and even listened to one’s stories over drinks at a local bar. Very seldom do you get to meet someone who can legitimately claim bravery, but anyone who stands in the middle of a raging fire and douses the flames instead of their own pants is a far braver person than I.
But that bravery is worthless if some bozo in a tie says the fire must rage on because so-and-so from the next town won’t sign a contract. Those bozos in ties (and blouses) have their own fires to put out, but it is all too easy to sit around and bicker as long as there is no smoke on the immediate horizon. We all know, however, that can change in a flash.
City leaders in Sparks are following a policy of stay the heck out of things, which might seem like a good idea but it could backfire. Neighboring jurisdictions supposedly work together when big emergencies happen, but we see how that’s working out under budget strains for Reno and Washoe County. Who is to say it won’t trickle over to affect Sparks? I don’t know if some kind of joint Reno-Sparks-Washoe County firefighting agreement is the way to go or not, but it does seem to me that local leaders need to figure it out quickly because the weather is only going to get hotter and drier.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make sure I turned off the stove under my coffee.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.