City hopes to hire 16 firefighters in next 6 months
Posted on Thursday, December 19th

By Brian McBride News-Gazette Staff Writer

KISSIMMEE Kissimmee Fire Department will begin hiring more firefighters next month following the city commission’s approval of recruiting 16 more employees between January and June of 2003.

The hiring spree will reduce the Kissimmee Fire Department’s overtime costs by $57,000, city officials said, as five will be hired in January, another five in March and then six more in June.

The city had originally planned to begin hiring in August in conjunction with the opening of the city’s fourth fire station. The city chose to start the process earlier, as many other agencies also hire during the summer, city officials said.

“I think it would be a great idea to get a few on board now,” said City Manager Mark Durbin.

The new firefighters will be placed at the current three fire stations until the fourth is constructed.

The new 13,000 square foot building will be built on 2.5 acres near the intersection of John Young Parkway and Osceola Parkway. It will allow for six beds, a fire truck bay and workout facility. Paramedic quarters will be provided as well.

While the firefighters will be city employees, half of their salaries will be paid by Osceola County because the station will also help serve the unincorporated area.

The hiring was planned after the city’s fire insurance rating slipped from 2 to 3 last year after the New Jersey-based Insurance Services Office, which rates fire departments in Florida and 44 other states, sent inspectors to examine fire services. The ranking is on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst.

ISO officials penalized Kissimmee for not having a fourth fire station for a city of its size.

But the city regained the ISO 2 rating in January after it proved that Kissimmee was negotiating to buy the land and showed money budgeted for construction and the additional firefighters.

But some city leaders and firefighters said the addition is still not enough. Commissioner Scott Brooks said the new firefighters would only satisfy the fourth fire station.

“In my opinion, when it does open up, our other stations will still have manpower problems,” Brooks said.

Brooks comments were backed by firefighter Ernie Sharpe, a member of Kissimmee’s firefighter union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4208.

“Any chance to get more people is welcome, but we’ll still be short staffed,” Sharpe said.