Florida Sheriff's Department Considers Dropping Firefighting Duties

Commissioners Jim Silverstone and Jerry McIntee both want the volunteer firefighters to be the only ones in town fighting fires.

The Town Commission has scheduled a July 25 workshop at Jarvis Hall to discuss the matter. The volunteers now work as subcontractors for the Broward Sheriff's Office Department of Fire Rescue.

Silverstone, who is also the volunteer fire chief, and McIntee, who serves as deputy chief, say the volunteers have the capability to take over firefighting duties while the Sheriff's Office should continue to provide EMS services.

"We are able to be the sole fire service in the town and can do it at a much reduced cost," Silverstone said. "We could save the town about $1 million a year in reduced fire suppression costs."

Silverstone said a resolution the town passed last year supported naming the volunteers to be the sole fire department. The volunteers have been fighting fires since the 1950s and were incorporated as a fire department in 1961.

But when the town annexed the unincorporated area to its north, the agreement called for keeping the Sheriff's Office in the annexed area and the volunteer department in the southern or old section of town. At that time, the cost per household for BSO was about $600 a year and the cost for the volunteers was about $75 a year, Silverstone said.

Silverstone said the volunteers now meet the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association as well as state firefighting requirements. Lauderdale-by the-Sea has almost 70 volunteer firefighters with an average response of 14 members per fire call. The volunteers lease from the Sheriff's Office two trucks that originally were property of the town. They also own and maintain one training truck.

Silverstone said to avoid any conflict of interest, he would step down as fire chief and keep his seat on the commission.

Mayor Oliver Parker said he would like to see the two departments get along but wants BSO to remain in the picture.

"I don't expect a conclusion at the workshop," Parker said. "I think that by having a paid and volunteer fire department, we have the best of two worlds. Right now I think the BSO is doing a good job."

At an earlier meeting, commissioners passed an ordinance requiring owners of beachfront property to display their addresses on the beach so 911 callers can see them.

"If someone has a medical emergency at the beach and someone needs to call 911, that person will be able to tell the operator where on the beach they are," Parker said.

Republished with permission of The Sun-Sentinel.