Fire Chief Charles Moore with Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District says he has seen more than 20 lightning-sparked fires during a single thunderstorm.

When the chance for lightning and fires are high, TMFPD turns to a lightning plan to utilize its resources. Rather than sending a full response, they send a single resource to a reported fire, then adjust the response from there. They also staff each of the five volunteer stations in Washoe County.

"So we're able to add a lot more resources to the depth of our response," says Chief Moore "so that we can send a resource to every report of a fire."

Tyler Elderkin works as an account manager for a commercial cleaning company, but is also a fire fighter with the Lemmon Valley Volunteers.

"It's kind of a brotherhood here, so it's really a home away from home," says Elderkin, who is working to become a firefighter to follow in the footsteps of family members in California.

"Usually during the day we get a text message to our phone, it's kind of a dispatch, that says, please stand up for the lightning plan," says Elderkin, adding that volunteers are at the station at least once a week, on Wednesday, in order to make sure they're ready at all times. "We go over our rigs, make sure all our gear's ready to go, in case we do get a call." 

Chief Moore says they work with the National Weather Service to get a full fire weather forecast and make the call for a lightning plan based on a number of factors. 

"We measure a lot of things, not just if we're going to see lightning," says Moore, "But we know what the fuel moisture is, we know what the wind's going to be, we know where the lightning is going to hit, so we can adjust our response accordingly." 

A big help to fire fighters, especially with lightning-caused brush fires, is the person calling 911. Chief Moore says not every lightning strike that hits the ground causes a fire.

He says if you see one, wait until you see a column of smoke follow, "and if you see a smoke column come off of where that lighting hit, then that's the time to hit 911," says Moore, "...if lightning hits a structure, by all means, always call 911 on that."

He says when you do call 911, try to be as specific as possible with the location, "we'll know where you're calling from but how far away do you see it, the direction, we need to know if there's any wind," says Moore, "we need to know if you see the fire moving, or growing in intensity."

"If you're not familiar, try to do the best you can, because that kind of paints a mental picture for us, so we know as we're responding, kind of what we have," says Elderkin, "if we know, say it's up on Peavine or something like that, we kind of know what the terrain is like, and we know the fuels, things like that, so that way we kind of can predict what we need and how we're going to effectively put this fire out."

Elderkin adds that community members, including the career fire fighters, are always thankful. 

"Feels great, you know, you can help people out and at the same time you're kind of having fun," says Elderkin. "You know, of course safety comes first, but like I said, we're a tight knit group, you know we, we're all kind of like a second family, really."

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