By Vernon Robison
Moapa Valley Progress
Members of the Moapa Fire Protection District board expressed concerns at a meeting last week regarding a new program proposed by Logandale Fire Station 73. The program would establish a local Boy Scout Explorer post which would be affiliated with the station and, by extension, with the district.
The proposed post would be for local youth ages 16-18 and would allow the Scouts to get taste of life as a firefighter. While not allowed to go on live fire calls, the youth would help with maintenance of equipment at the station and participate in some firefighter training.
Members of Station 73 say that the Explorer Post would be fashioned after a similar program affiliated with Clark County Fire Department. That program has about 100 participating Scouts who meet 2-3 times per month in Las Vegas to learn about firefighting.
At last week’s district meeting, board members specifically were concerned about potential liability issues involved with establishing the Post.
“I for one am totally against it,” said Moapa Station 72 Chief Ron Leachman who sits on the district board. “Because it puts the district at risk for any and all liability. It doesn’t matter if it is with the Boy Scouts or whoever it is with. Parents will get a lawyer and go after whoever has the money.”
Board member Ann Schreiber agreed.
“I run a non profit,” she said. “The first thing they warn you about is this volunteer thing; you are responsible for what happens to the volunteers. You don’t want to put kids in a place where they are going to be in any danger.”
“This was mentioned to me before and I thought: What a great program for [the Scouts] to learn about all of this,” said Board member Judy Metz. “But that was my thinking: to LEARN about it. It was not in the scope of being on the equipment and using the equipment. I thought it was more of just learning about the process and what we do, so that when they turn 18 they could get involved. I have to agree that I don’t think that it is a good idea.”
But Logandale station member Gail DeCaria, who was in attendance at the meeting stated that, if the program was run appropriately, the Boy Scouts of America insurance would cover all the liability.
“We have spent several months checking into this, checking out insurance, talking to the Boy Scouts,” DeCaria said. “We even ran it through all the big [Clark County] Fire Department officials. They saw no problem with it. So I’m not sure why we have legal experts here that think that there is going to be a problem when their legal experts said there wasn’t going to be a problem.”
“Because we are the legal experts on this board and we don’t want it,” Leachman said.
In a telephone interview with Chief Russ Cameron, who oversees rural fire departments for Clark County Fire Department (CCFD), he said that the Logandale Station had brought the proposal to his attention some time ago and were excited about moving forward right away.
“We told them that the challenge would be to put together a written proposal and lay the program out in its entirety and present it to the board for approval,” said Cameron. “It should look at who should run the program and it should look into all the liability issues.”
Cameron confirmed that CCFD has a very successful Explorer program. But a lot of complicated details had gone into setting it up, he said.
“You need to have someone who is especially trained to work with the kids,” Cameron said. “It has to be a long-term commitment. So who is going to oversee the program? You have to have the right person. It can’t just be anyone. It has to be someone who is in it for the long haul.”
Cameron explained that an Explorer Post isn’t intended as just a rookie firefighter school.
“A program like that should be about helping to mould kids into responsible adults,” Cameron said. “It should give teens a positive experience while teaching honesty, hard work, values and morals. That they are learning about the Fire Department is just icing on the cake. So you have to have the right type of people to guide the kids through that and be in a position to advise and help them if they need help.”
Cameron said that he felt that it was still premature for Volunteer Station 73 to sustain such a program.
“I think that the district board members are right on with what they are doing,” Cameron said. “They [Station 73 leadership] haven’t put together a written proposal yet. And once they do they will need to have sign-off from both the Department and the District. Right now I think that it is just a group of folks that have a good idea. But they haven’t taken it up to the next level.”
At the board meeting, as the discussion began to wind down towards a motion, Overton Fire Station Chief Matt Nelson said that he would like to look at the proposal in more depth before making a decision.
“I’d like to see what all information that they have collected on this program,” Nelson said. “I’ve heard about the Boy Scout program and I’m not real;y a ‘yea’ or a ‘nay’ on it. But at least, we should maybe give them a chance to present it to us.”
“But no matter what, we have to protect the district from liability,” said Board Chairman Charlie Lindsey. “It may be a fantastic program, but as long as we have our necks on the line, it is our job to protect the district.”
Leachman made a motion that the proposed Explorer program not be allowed to go forward at all. But the motion died for lack of a second.
Metz then made a motion to table the item until further information was presented to the board expressly regarding liability to the district.
The motion was approved with a 4-2 vote. Leachman and Schreiber were opposed.