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50 Years of Air Racing

Over half a century, a devoted few created the unique culture of Reno.

In Case of Emergency

(Robert Seale)

Between 80 and 100 firefighters and other emergency professionals are on hand at Reno-Stead Airport during the air races. Every other year, emergency response teams conduct a mass casualty drill. Medical response teams and fire and emergency responders from the Nevada Air National Guard, the airport authority, Washoe County, and the city of Reno meet in a classroom to discuss how they’d respond to a bad day.

Emergency Services Director Tim Spencer, a division chief of the Reno Fire Department, conducted a drill months before the Leeward accident based on a scenario he devised: a jet racer crashing into the media area. “In terms of the numbers of casualties, the scenario was very close to the actual accident,” he says. “It was almost a rehearsal.”

That’s why, on the event’s worst day, emergency responders were able to get 55 critically injured people to the hospital within 62 minutes and keep the crash from being deadlier than it was.

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