Bradenton, Florida Fire Rescue Department Nears Accreditation

This city's fire department is about to join a small, elite group.

Mark Souders, chief of the Bradenton Fire Rescue Department, announced Wednesday that the department is one step away from receiving accreditation - an honor that only eight of the state's 645 fire rescue departments share.

The department is expected to receive its accreditation Aug. 11. Not only will it stand out among Florida fire departments, but of the 34,000 fire departments in the nation, fewer than 90 are accredited.

And the Bradenton Fire Rescue Department would become the 93rd accredited fire department in the world.

"I'm so proud," Souders said, as a dozen fire department officials received applause from Bradenton City Council and others attending the council's Wednesday evening meeting.

But now the department has to keep its accreditation. Receiving such a notation means the department voluntarily enters a process by which it holds itself to higher standards or risks losing the distinction. To become accredited, the department had to canvass its policies and adopt tougher standards during a lengthy review by outside officials.

Souders said employees sacrificed weekends, holidays and evenings during the laborious process. Souders said five years ago Mayor Wayne Poston asked him if there existed a process by which a fire department can seek accreditation. Souders said he told Poston of such a program and Poston told him to go for it.

"The main reason for local government is public safety," Poston said. "We have two accredited departments and we all can be very proud."

The Bradenton Police Department became accredited in June 2003.