Herald Tribune

Fire district tax pays off with six new firefighters


While not everyone in Englewood may be on board with the voter-approved tax increase for the Englewood Area Fire Control District, what matters most to Assistant Chief Kirk Gaskill is that the November referendum has brought the funds to hire six new firefighters.

The six men -- and one other new hire who is replacing a departing firefighter -- started work April 29 and are part of the first phase of hiring that Gaskill said will continue next year.

More manpower, Gaskill said, was the district's main goal when firefighters helped push the referendum at the polls last November. It passed with 56.2 percent of the vote.

"We're paper-thin as it is," said Gaskill, who said the new hires bring the total number of firefighters to 45 and will raise the number of on-duty firefighters at the area's four stations from 13 to 15 at any given time.

Gaskill said the new people will also be important when big fires hit, such as the January blaze that caused major damage to Calico Jack's on Englewood Beach.

Also on the horizon for the district is a fifth fire station to be paid for from funds raised by Charlotte County's one-cent sales tax.

Gaskill said there is no ground-breaking date set for the station, which will be on two acres in East Englewood behind the Englewood Area Board of Realtors building.

Capt. Scott Lane, the fire district's training officer, said 16 men applied for the jobs and that the winning candidates come from as far away as West Palm Beach and as close as Englewood.

All the applicants were already state-certified firefighters, having gone through technical school, Gaskill said.

Lane said the lengthy screening process included a written test, physical ability test and test of practical skills in which the recruits tied knots, raised a ladder and advanced a hose line.

To move on to an interview, the potential firefighters had to pass each test.

"If you fail any portion, you're out," Lane said.

Training including a two-week orientation program, driver's training, survival training and lessons on the department's equipment.

The new firefighters work one 24-hour day and two days off and will stay at Station 1 at 599 S. Indiana Ave., learning department procedures for three months, Lane said.

Then they will take shifts at each of the four stations.

The other district fire stations are at 5060 Placida Road, Grove City, 1967 Old Englewood Road and 403 Continued
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