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Investigation into county’s broken fire equipment complete
by Jill Lufrano
Aug 15, 2012 | 2671 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District will now never know if someone tampered with and intentionally endangered the public and firefighters of the new district by incorrectly wiring four hydraulic maintenance lifts given to the new county fire district by the City of Reno following a nasty divorce.

The lifts were given to Truckee Meadows by the City of Reno and were needed to repair fire engines. However, after an inspection by an independent mechanic, all four lifts were found to be rewired incorrectly in the same exact way, according to Fire Chief Charles Moore. If a fire engine were hoisted upon the lift for repair, the improperly installed lift would not allow the engine to return to the ground.

“When I received confirmation that it could not have been accidental, that it had to have been a human act, I reported it to the sheriff’s office,” Moore said. “I was concerned that the tampering could have resulted in (equipment) collapsing and killing a mechanic.”

Moore spent less than $1,000 to fix the problems, but by having the problems addressed, the sheriff’s office apparently could not investigate the tampering.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that it had completed its investigation into alleged tampering of equipment allocated to the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District during the recent deconsolidation.

“On June 29, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint of alleged tampering to electric plugs and the hydraulic systems within the specialized maintenance equipment,” according to the statement issued by the sheriff’s office. “The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office initiated an investigation into the complaint.”

The chiefs of both the Reno Fire Department, Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and their staff fully cooperated with Sheriff’s Office investigators during the review of the case. The investigation revealed that four heavy equipment lifts were manipulated in such a way as to render them inoperable.

“Because the heavy equipment lifts were considered critical to the operation of Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District operation, they were fixed prior to investigators collecting forensic evidence from them,” according to the release. “This decision, while entirely appropriate for safe operations of the lifts, destroyed any potential forensic evidence that might have been collected. This action subsequently limited the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to identify a suspect in this case and no suspect was identified as a result of interviews.”

Given that no suspect was identified and subsequently interviewed, the sheriff’s department ended its investigation.

Reno Fire Department Chief Michael Hernandez issued a statement immediately, that thanked the sheriff’s office for conducting the investigation.

”The investigation is now complete and no suspect has been identified,” Hernandez said. “I assure the public that the equipment in question was fully operable when Reno Fire handed it over to the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. With this distraction resolved I hope we can return to the real work of providing fire protection service to Reno residents.”

Moore said he likely did make an error by repairing the damaged lifts so the operations of the fire department weren’t compromised, but “my concern was on the side of the citizens and for the concern of my employees. I never alleged that anybody in particular had tampered with them.”

“I think the sheriff’s is very thorough and think he did a very good job,” Moore said. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t any evidence there for him to take it any further and I support his conclusions.”

Moore is already moving forward with the fire district and making strides by installing state-of-the-art GPS equipment in the fire engines to improve response times.

“It’s time to put all the emotions and controversy behind us and move forward,” Moore said.

The new mobile data terminals on the engines will be installed in the next few weeks and will have the capability to plot directions to addresses in the rural areas.

“It will increase accuracy of our response,” he said.
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