Lauderdale By The Sea, Florida County Merge Fire Coverage

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea commissioners agreed to merge the town's volunteer firefighters with Broward County Fire Rescue. It is the first expansion of the county's fire rescue service since Sheriff Ken Jenne was given the go-ahead to take it over.

Town commissioners in early July voted unanimously to consolidate the town's 30-member volunteer fire rescue service with the county's fire-rescue division, which Jenne will take over Oct. 1.

County commissioners recently approved a contract with Jenne to have the Sheriff's Office take over the county's fire-rescue service and its $60 million budget.

Currently, the county's fire service serves the annexed area in the northern part of town while volunteer firefighters serve the southern half. Residents pay two different rates for fire service; the northern half pays three times as much for the county's fire service than residents in the south, who receive volunteer service.

Under the new agreement, there will be one fire service fee town-wide, Town Manger Robert Baldwin said. Residents in the southern half of town will pay slightly more, and residents in the northern half slightly less. Baldwin said the exact amounts have not yet been determined.

Volunteer Fire Chief Ian MacLean said blending the two departments was a good move.

"We see this as a very positive opportunity," MacLean said. "We'll have better training, better pre-planning of fires ... through consolidation comes coordination."

Volunteer firefighters will still be considered volunteers under Jenne's leadership, but will receive additional training paid for by the county, Baldwin said.

"The department will still exist as an autonomous body," he said. "They're still a separate corporation within the town, but when they're fighting fires they'll be doing so under the direction of the county."

Baldwin added that consolidation should be complete by October of next year.