County fire chief gives wish list:Goals outlined in five-year plan
By BRYAN NOONAN
With goals that include consolidating fire stations in key areas of the county, bulking up firefighter-to-engine ratios and adding a new fire rescue headquarters, St. Johns County Fire Chief Bobby Hall has expressed his wishes about the next five years.
Currently, there are two firefighters on each of the nine career-staffed engines in the county. Since manpower is the most important part of a successful fire team, the goal by 2005 is to have three firefighters per engine. By 2008, Hall wants four firefighters per engine. "This is where I'd like to be today," he told the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning.
The five-year plan was based on response times, the volume of calls, population density and demographics. With the hope of working the plan into fruition, proposals to merge city and county fire rescue have been temporarily tabled.
"It's not a dead issue," said operations chief Carl Shank. "I think it's come to a stop until we can see where the county fire rescue is going."
By 2008, new fire stations must be built and two volunteer stations will be consolidated into one career station, Hall said. The first on the list is the Bakersville station, near Interstate 95 and State Road 16. There is a proposal to move this volunteer station slightly east, and man it with three firefighters in the next year, Shank said.
The two volunteer stations covering the South Ponte Vedra and Vilano Beach area will merge into a combination career and volunteer station in 2005, Hall said. In 2006, a station will be built in the St. Augustine Shores/U.S. 1 area and in 2007, the St. Augustine Beach station will be moved off the coast to a more centralized point of the response zone.
Depending on development, a temporary station may be used in the northwest area of the county in 2007, and in 2008, a station will function near the World Golf Village.
With no room for additional staff, Hall will also request funding for a fire rescue headquarters for 2004.
Shank said some equipment also needs replacing. A Motorola certified company assessed the current equipment and was "able to show us that 50 percent of our equipment is obsolete," he said.
He said fire rescue works off one channel for dispatch and operation. This can be dangerous if the channel is clogged with calls when a firefighter inside a burning home needs to call out.
The goal is to expand three to six channels, based on the growth of call volume, Shank said.
Fire rescue will also look into adding a 700- or 800-megahertz radio system. It currently works off a VHF radio system, but Shank said this is outdated technology. Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach and Clay County all use 800-megahertz radios, Shank said, meaning communication is not possible when they are dispatched unless they are carrying VHF radios.
In 2004, five additional engines will be needed in the county, he said. Four need replacing and a new engine is needed for the Bakersville station.
Hall said he hopes the County Commission can commit to the five-year plan, adding that hearings throughout May will decide the fate of the 2004 budget.
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04-10-2003, 01:39 PM #1
St. John's County Fla--Fire Chief has eye on future of Dept.09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
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