Candidates: More firefighters needed in Mason Valley

Four candidates are vying for three seats on the newly expanded Mason Valley Fire Protection District board, and they agree on the main issue - the need for more firefighters.

• Incumbent Jim Dechambeau, who has been on the board for eight years, said the district averaged 100 calls a month with only five paid firefighters and about 30 volunteers.

"But only half of them are real active," he added.

But, Dechambeau said, a full, paid staff is unlikely unless taxes are dramatically increased.

He said he wants to give back to the Yerington community where he was born. He has served on the fair board and worked for the Anaconda Copper Mine.

• Timothy Ogle, a lifelong resident of Smith and Mason valleys, wants to focus on preparing for increased growth and retaining more volunteer firefighters.

Ogle said signs seeking volunteers have been on the firehouse for more than a year, indicating to him the district hasn't attracted enough firefighters.

He said quite a few members have chosen to retire after giving 10 years of service.

"The atmosphere makes it not a place where you want to be," Ogle said. "They don't have good participation and training. An attitude change is in order."

He said there is often animosity between paid and volunteer firefighters, and that issue needs to be addressed by the board and the fire chief.

He said he supports increased revenue for the district.

"I would support that as a board member and as a taxpayer," he said. "When they asked for it the last time, I voted for it."

Ogle, who works for Lyon County Utilities, would also consider the possibility of additional stations. He wants to resolve water issues, saying the district depends too heavily on agricultural wells, and would like to work with East Fork Fire District in Douglas County for a tank.

"The farmers and ranchers are very generous with water, but we can't always depend on that," he said.

Ogle, 49, has worked for the Lyon County Road Department as a mechanic, and has been in ranching for 13 years.

• Lyon County Sheriff's Capt. Jeffery Page, who joined the cadet program as a youth, also mentioned the higher number of calls.

"We are not able to keep up with services," given the area's growth, Page said.

He said he also wants to improve recruitment and retention of career staff and volunteers.

Page said the district needs more emergency medical personnel.

"We need to be able to hire people to ensure that part is taken care of," he said. He also wants to upgrade equipment and look at adding stations.

As a captain with 20 years in the Lyon County Sheriff's Office, Page said his experience with personnel and budget issues makes him qualified for the board.

"I have an understanding of firefighter side of it and the administrative side of it," he said. "What the chief needs to do to get his job done."

• Tony H. Smith, 60, is a retired Johnson & Johnson Co. employee from New Jersey who has been in the Yerington area for four years. He would like to see increased funding, but not by raising taxes.

"We can work with these contractors who are building developments, or bring more area into the district," he said. "But I don't want to raise taxes. I think people are hit hard enough."

He also would like to find a way to increase firefighters' pay.

Smith was a volunteer firefighter for 31 years in New Jersey and spent five days in search-and-rescue operations at Ground Zero after Sept. 11.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111, ext. 351.


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