Burning question – will Fire Station 14 house rescue unit or engine crew?

Burning question – will Fire Station 14 house rescue unit or engine crew?

 

By Susanna P. Barton –
Resident Community News –

More than 150 concerned residents, business owners and firefighters crowded the auditorium at FSCJ Kent Campus for a town hall meeting last month hosted by District 14 City Councilman Jim Love and Fire Chief Martin Senterfitt. At issue is a potential asset re-allocation at Avondale’s Fire Station 14 —  more plainly, whether the station will house a rescue unit or a fire engine crew.
The discussion has local property owners and firefighters on alert.
“The guys on rescue can’t help you when you house is on fire,” said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. Wyse, along with many former and current firefighters, attended the mid-August meeting. Many balked at the chief’s assessment of there only being four fires Station 14 put out in 2011. “Avondale is really saturated with people, there are a lot of people back in there. When the chief is talking about working fires, he’s talking about the ones that were out of control before crews got there. But what about the other fires Station 14 went to that were just kitchen fires — the ones they were able to stop? That could be a large number if 14 wasn’t there.”
Residents voiced similar concerns. Cathy Harris, a nearby resident, addressed the growing neighborhood population and that a greater percentage of homes and buildings were wood framed.Downing Nightingale, an Ortega resident and owner of Lamb’s Yacht Center on Lakeshore Boulevard, urged the fire chief to also consider the protection more than 500 boats in slips along the neighborhood’s “Marina Mile.”
“If there is a fire on one of those boats, time is of the essence — and Station 14 is our closest responder,” Nightingale said. “If there is a boat fire at a marina, you don’t have time to waste. In the equation, please consider what we have along the riverfront here.”
Senterfitt underscored no final decisions have been made on what kind of response apparatus would best be housed at the station.
“We’re facing challenging economic times right now,” Senterfitt said. “We’re just thinking of ideas — Fire Station 14 is not closing, the question becomes what type of apparatus will be in the station.”
He said the situation boils down to how the department can best utilize its assets across the county with a limited budget and provide both rescue and fire engine services to all areas without wasting resources. Fire Station 14 is being considered for asset relocation because of its proximity to and potential service overlap with nearby fire stations 10, 22, 23 and 25.
Senterfitt said his department responded to 120,000 911 calls last year and 80 percent of them were for medical emergencies. Less than 20 percent were for fires. A shortage of ambulances across the city compromises his department’s ability to respond to emergencies, he said, so he is looking for ways he can better balance available resources.
“It’s a crisis we’re facing — we don’t have enough ambulances in Jacksonville,” Senterfitt said. “We run out of 911 ambulances on a regular basis.”
Matt, a firefighter from Fire Station 14, stood to share his perspective of the potential changes. He said crews from Fire Station 14 and the other nearby facilities are making 10 to 15 runs a day. And most of the emergency calls are not coming from Avondale.
He used the example of taking a rescue victim to the St. Vincent’s Riverside emergency room and the long paperwork and wait times involved for rescue crews.
“In the meantime, there’s no service for Avondale,” he said.
John Bracey, community affairs officer for JFRD, said there are no additional public meeting scheduled regarding Station 14. But he said Senterfitt will continue to analyze emergency response data “before making any recommendations or decisions that would affect Station 14.” In order to change the use of a fire station, JFRD officials are required to hold a public hearing and give a 14-day notice, Wyse said.
‘The data he’s compiled does support that having an advanced life support rescue unit based at Station 14 would expedite the response time of the rescue units within Fire Station 14 by an average of three minutes,” Bracey said. “That is relevant because approximately 80 percent of JFRD’s calls for emergency service are medical in nature.”
Wyse said the issue of changing or closing Fire Station 14 has come up before — “many times.”
“Then the citizens of Avondale say no, and it goes away,” Wyse said. “I don’t know why they bang their head against this political wall. Why should the citizens of Avondale lose while others gain? I think the citizens of Avondale made it very clear at the meeting.”

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