Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee gave high praise to the Panaca Volunteer Fire Department and other first responders in the way they, and members of the community, came together to handle the aftermath of the devastating bombing in Panaca last week.
“All the volunteer departments and all three ambulance services in the north responded that night,” he said. “They responded without even being asked. They came with any kind of personnel we needed. There was a lot of coordination that night. They were all set out to do their task without question. For as bad as it was, it actually went very smooth. We basically put our incident command system into gear. This was not something we have trained for specifically, but from the training we have had, everybody had a good idea of what to do.”
Lee admitted the recovery of the community from the event will take some time. “However, the state has offered several different agencies for resources to help people. Governor Sandoval came with his chief of staff to give information as to where people might be able to get some assistance.”
Wendell Cowart will be the person, besides the Cluff family, who will likely need the most assistance. His home, only yards away, suffered major damage by the car bomb blast.
After responding to the scene as a member of the volunteer fire department, Lee said, “Once I saw what was going on and had a good grasp of it, I had to go home, get out of my fire gear and change into my uniform to function in my role as sheriff.”
He also gave many thanks to the number of state and federal partners who showed up to help. “FBI, ATF, Investigations, State Fire Marshal’s office, Division of Forestry, and the Nevada Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Task Force came up from Las Vegas.”
He said, “Even the Director of the Department of Public Safety Jim Wright, and Caleb Cage with the Division of Emergency Management from Reno and Carson City came to help. They didn’t come in to step on toes, they asked what they can do to help.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval offered to cut short his attendance at the national governors meeting in Iowa to fly to Panaca to inspect the damage. Lee said, “I was very humbled when I received a call on my cell phone the next morning from the governor himself offering to come to Panaca immediately, if needed.” Lee told him no, but Sandoval did come on Friday.
Lee said the governor assured the people at the meetings he held in town that the community will receive as much help as they can give to move forward.
This week there have be a few state agencies remaining in Panaca helping in recovery efforts.
On another note, one person reported one of the television reporters questioned Sandoval about the readiness of Lincoln County to handle this emergency, but the Governor responded by saying that everything was done right.
Sara Elmore of Caliente said she was in the Grover C. Dils Medical Center that evening and saw just how prepared and ready the staff was to handle what was thought to be a major incident. “They went into emergency mode and were prepared for whatever. It didn’t happen as anticipated, but they were ready.”