Washoe County Sheriff's Office, Forest Service to Share Helicopt - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Washoe County Sheriff's Office, Forest Service to Share Helicopter Resources

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A new agreement has been made to share resources between the Washoe County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Forest Service. On Tuesday night at the Board of Commissioners meeting, the sheriff's office RAVEN helicopter was approved to be used to help fight national forest fires.

People on both sides say this new agreement will help firefighters immensely.

The updated agreement to use RAVEN was approved between Washoe County, Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and for the first time, the U.S. Forest Service. Peter Anderson with the Nevada Division of Forestry says having RAVEN puts a bigger focus on putting out those fires closer to home. "It's all an interagency effort and to have even more of those resources locally is fantastic," said Anderson.
   
The U.S. Forest Service has been working for a year to get this agreement finished and with decreasing budgets across the board, sharing resources like this helps a lot. "Sharing the resources is critical. Budgets are tight. It's the public's money and being able to spend it in an efficient manner where we are sharing the burden," said Lt. Tim O'Connor.

The contract includes a way to divide RAVEN's use among different agencies, depending on where a fire is burning. The chopper costs about $2,200 to $2,500 an hour to cover fuel and operating costs along with wear and tear.

The best part about this new agreement is firefighters can hopefully get the upper hand when fighting a fire in the forest because RAVEN can access terrain that may be too difficult for firefighters on the ground. "It's 400 gallons of water, and the foam I think is 80 gallons or 80 pounds of foam," said  Lt. Tim O'Connor.

Using RAVEN slows fire spread time and allows ground crews to catch up and put the fire out faster. "It saves lives, it saves critical wildlife habitat and sage grass and that's all our combined goal," said Anderson.

The contract between Washoe County and the U.S. Forest Service went into effect Wednesday and will continue for one year. Both agencies say they have plans to re-evaluate and renew the contract again next year.

Written by Chloe Beardsley
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