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GUEST COLUMN: Fire department needs your cooperation

Mike Terwilliger, Truckee Fire Protection District Chief

Have you ever sat around in your spare time and asked yourself, “How does the fire department get to me when I need them the most”?

As the Chief of the Truckee Fire Protection District I ask myself this question all the time. How can I make sure we can find people who want us to find them?

I have been touring the Fire District in its entirety recently to confirm we can get the big red fire truck to your front door when you most desire it.

And guess what I found? About 5 percent of you don’t care, about 20 percent of you think you care, and the other 75 percent really do care.

Where am I going with all this? In my travels I have noticed an uncomfortable number of homes and businesses with no address listed on the front of the building. At night we stand no chance of finding you and chances are minimal during the day unless, of course, fire is coming out every window.

What I find in conflict is the investment in signs indicating how special this building is to the owner. It is not uncommon to see a $500 sign out for all to see saying something along the line of, “Hannibal’s High Sierra Hideaway,” or even stranger, a 5,000-square-foot home with a large hand-carved sign saying, “Our Little Cabin in the Sky.” Unfortunately, when you call 911, the enhanced system displays your five digit numerical address, not the cabin in the sky thing.

Now that I have had my way with the 5 percent, I will address the other 20 percent. These are the folks who do have an address up but it has faded to the same color as the side of the house. Many times it is really small. Please keep in mind that fire fighters and police officers get old too and we need big numbers to read, just like you. Or maybe the numbers are on a nice rock post at the driveway, but the snowfall has them covered all winter.

In some cases for example the numbers are facing Pine Street, but the house is actually an Aspen Street address. Sometimes the numbers are covered by Christmas decorations, or a garden hose coiled up, or behind the privacy trees we learn to love and protect. Sometimes the nine has flipped into a six. Either way, the numbers are up but we can’t see or read them.

Now for those of you who have read this far, I want you to try a simple test. At night, drive down the street, get yourself all excited and try to get to your house real fast. But first you must find the address in the dark. Too easy? Try your neighbor’s house. If your address is not readily apparent and the UPS guy always says how hard your house is to find, you have some adjustments to make. Just because you can find it at the end of the work day does not mean we can as well.

So what can we do? Well, here comes the boring bureaucratic part. Ask yourself these questions and if you answer yes to any of them, time for an adjustment.

— Are your address numbers facing a different road than you show as your address?

— Are your address numbers smaller than three inches taIl?

— Have your address numbers faded or fallen off?

— Are the numbers the same color as the house?

— Are the numbers a different sequence than all your neighbors?

–Is your house over 50 feet from the road and the only numbers are on the house?

–Are your mailbox numbers one inch tall, black on a white background?

— Are your numbers in an unlighted area?

— Do you have lots of vegetation blocking the front of your house?

— My favorite: Did the fire department take forever to find me last time I called?

— Do I live on a long driveway with multiple houses, but I have a street address that is not marked on the main road?

— Have I recently bought a cool sign for my house and forgot to mark my address?

— Do I think the government will take care of me no matter what?

I think you get the point. I am in this business to help people. I get very frustrated when I fail at this task. Occasionally we are accused of failure because we take so long to arrive. In most cases, we simply could not find you.

If this story has prompted some questions, call us at 582-7850 and we will come out to look at your home and answer any fire services question you have. Please be safe!


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