Sun-Sentinel

Lakes, Lauderhill alter pact

By Susannah Bryan
Staff Writer
Posted April 6 2003

Lauderhill has a new deal with Lauderdale Lakes that will save both fire departments time and money, officials say.

"I think that's the key," Lauderhill Fire Chief Ed Curran said. "It will reduce [the use of] resources in both cities."

Under the new arrangement, Lauderhill firefighters will no longer respond to every fire alarm in Lauderdale Lakes, as they have since 1995. Instead, they will respond only to structure fires south of Oakland Park Boulevard.

The new pact also cuts back on calls Lauderdale Lakes must make to Lauderhill. While Lauderdale Lakes will continue to respond to calls in Lauderhill east of the turnpike, they will only respond to confirmed fires.

"The new contract will reduce our [automatic aid] calls from 500 calls a year to 40 a year," Lauderhill Assistant Fire Chief Tim Hautamaki told commissioners at a recent meeting. "It will reduce their calls from 400 to 40 -- about the same."

Lauderhill has three stations and 80 firefighters serving a 7-square-mile area of 57,500 residents. Lauderdale Lakes has one station and 51 firefighters serving a 4-square-mile area with 32,000 residents.

Automatic aid agreements aim to provide faster response time because the fire department closer to a fire -- even if the department is in another city -- will be dispatched to the scene, along with the city's own firefighters. The agreements also provide additional staff and extra equipment to combat fires.

Lauderhill Fire Department records show Lauderhill had the bigger burden.

From August 2001 to August 2002, Lauderhill firefighters responded to 257 calls in Lauderdale Lakes, according to city records. For the same period, Lauderdale Lakes responded to 149 calls in Lauderhill.

Lauderhill Commissioner Lee Mirsky questioned the arrangement in February, saying she was worried Lauderhill firefighters were responding to dozens more calls in Lauderdale Lakes than that city's firefighters were responding to in Lauderhill.

Negotiations began, with Lauderhill suggesting that Lauderdale Lakes pay for the extra calls. Lauderdale Lakes balked at the request, and suggested the new plan. Lauderhill approved it on Feb. 24, with Lauderdale Lakes approving it the following day.

Like other cities throughout the county, Lauderhill and Lauderdale Lakes will still operate under a mutual aid agreement in which departments respond to fires in another city upon request.

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sun-sentinel.com or 954-572-2028.