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Nevada Air Guard supports Washoe Valley firefighting efforts

A Nevada Air National Guard fire tender re-supplies fire engines from multiple governmental agencies during the Little Valley Fire that burned 22 homes Friday. Photo courtesy Nevada Air National Guard Fire Emergency Services

A Nevada Air National Guard fire tender re-supplies fire engines from multiple governmental agencies during the Little Valley Fire that burned 22 homes Friday. Photo courtesy Nevada Air National Guard Fire Emergency Services

RENO -- Tim Daniels rushed to work after he heard about a wind-whipped fire early Friday morning that jumped around Washoe Valley and eventually destroyed 22 homes.
"As soon as I woke up, I left for work," said Daniels, a firefighter at 152nd Airlift Wing emergency fire services section. "If all fire assets in the valley are going, and it's an immediate need, you know you're going."
Four Airmen and two civilian firefighters from the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno were among more than a thousand federal, state and county personnel working the blaze, which scorched more than 3,400 acres as wind gusts exceeded 70 mph.
Additionally, about 30 Nevada Army Guard soldiers provided security and patrols for law enforcement in the area affected by the blaze.
Upon the Nevada Division of Emergency Management's request, the Nevada National Guard Joint Operations Center in Carson City activated Nevada Air Guard firefighters along with a fire tender and engine shortly after 8 a.m. Friday. They initially reported to Galena High School for the Rolling Hills Fire, but were re-directed to the Little Valley Fire near Franktown Road in southwestern Washoe Valley.
The Air Guard firefighters brought a 4,000-gallon tender -- the largest tender available in Washoe County -- and a fire engine for property protection and water re-supply.
"The tender is basically a mobile fire hydrant," said Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Bandoni, fire emergency services chief at the base in Reno. "So, as the firefighters go through their operations and run out of water, we fill them up."
In all, the tender provided more than 100,000 gallons of water Friday for several agencies fighting the fire, including Carson City Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and others, Bandoni said.
Along with the fire tender, four base firefighters in the engine provided property protection.
"We basically went into a cul-de-sac with six homes and a lot of brush and buildings," Tech. Sgt. William Duggins said. "We were there for about nine hours to deflect the fire from those homes. For a few moments it looked like it was going to start taking off, but it died down."
The Nevada Air National Guard has one active guardsman and 17 state employees working full-time at the base in Reno. Additionally, there are 32 guardsmen working one weekend a month at the base fire department. Two of the traditional guardsmen -- Staff Sgt. Brian Boyer and Airman Nick Hunter -- reported a day early for drill this weekend. They were among the six called for firefighting Friday.
The Nevada Air Guard has mutual-aid agreements with fire agencies in the region. Friday's request came through the state, not a mutual-aid agreement, but the Air Guard's tender and fire engine has reported to fires in Reno, including the Caughlin Ranch (2011) and Washoe Drive (2012) fires. They also supported federal firefighting efforts last month in the Boise National Forest.
Scott Brandt, who worked 15 years for the Bureau of Land Management fighting wildland fires before he became a full-time firefighter at the base, said he was impressed with the interagency cohesion amidst chaos.
"I've never seen multiple agencies come together for an initial attack like that," he said. "It was pretty chaotic, but everyone came together well."
No injuries were reported among the Nevada Air guardsmen, but four firefighters from other agencies were treated for smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.