Fire stations receive new designations

Fire stations receive new designations

Specializations concentrated at three locations –

In an effort to extinguish inefficiencies, three Jacksonville fire stations have new designations as Squad Companies concentrating specialized skill sets – responsibilities and equipment – to better aid the community.

Last month fire stations in St. Nicholas, Riverside and the Northside began transitioning from Engine Companies to three unique Squad Companies.
Formerly known as Engine 5 on Forest Street in Riverside, Engine 12 on Atlantic Boulevard in St. Nicholas and Engine 37 on Busch Drive on the Northside, the stations are now Squad Companies. Under the new designation and in addition to its regular engine duties, Station 5 will assist with Urban Search and Rescue, Station 12 with Radiation and Hazardous Materials and Station 37 with flammable liquids.
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According to Kurtis Wilson, Chief of Operations for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, personnel on these newly formed special operation units will have an additional 1,000-2,000 hours of training. “We are taking a normal Engine [Company] and now its members will be highly trained and have specialized equipment,” said Wilson.

These Squads, which differentiate the roles and responsibilities of unique companies, were modeled after other similarly sized fire departments including the Fire Department of New York. Locally they are designed to increase operational effectiveness by concentrating specialized personnel and equipment at three locations instead of being scattered throughout the City on different engines. The stations were chosen geographically to span the Northside, Westside and Southside.

All HazMat and Special Ops calls will require at least one Squad to respond. Examples of emergencies requiring Squads are the Berkman Plaza parking garage collapse, and the American Asphalt entrapment, where a company employee was stuck in the asphalt. Wilson said during the latter incident it became a logistical issue pulling responders who had the necessary expertise to assist with the seven-hour rescue from all over the City instead of a dedicated site.

The newly formed Squad companies will add staff to each of its shifts. Wilson said they are still in the process of filling those positions, which require additional certifications.
Of the three stations being designated Squad companies, only Engine 12 in St. Nicholas was and will remain an Advanced Life Saving Station, meaning they have a paramedic on staff at every shift, carry drugs, and have special emergency medical supply equipment.

Currently there are seven paramedics and three EMTs at Station 12. There are three responders per shift now, but once hiring is complete, there will be four per shift.
“This really ups the ante for St. Nicholas residents,” said Wilson. “It greatly adds to their neighborhood.”

The other two stations will remain Basic Life Support Stations in addition to their new responsibilities as Squadrons.
According to Wilson, “The idea of the Squad Company is to be a force-multiplier during certain events. This Squad Company initiative will lay the foundation for a progressive and innovative operational re-tooling, designed to improve efficiency and maximize effectiveness…”

JFRD’s history as an innovator has always been hot. Previously known as the Jacksonville Fire Department, it was one of the first in the nation to add rescue to their fire fighting endeavors.
“We were in the business of fighting fires,” said Tom Francis, Public Information Officer for the JFRD. “We figured we had all these engines, why don’t we give these firefighters training and special equipment so they can save a life.”

So in 1967 under the direction of Mayor Hans Tanzler, emergency ambulatory service was placed permanently in the care of the Jacksonville Fire Department. The rescue division began with six station wagons equipped with first aid kits and folding Army cots for stretchers.

In 1977 it established the first Hazardous Materials team.
Today, the JFRD is one of the largest fire and rescue departments in Florida encompassing an area of approximately 840 square miles. There are 53 engines, three stand-alone rescue stations and two marine stations serving a population of more than 850,000 residents.

In recent years, several fire stations, including Squad 12, have been threatened with closings as the City grappled with budget deficiencies.
Francis said in his 25 years on the force, a station has yet to close. “Anything can happen to anyone at any time. When it comes to an emergency there has to be an acceptable level of risk in the community because you can’t have a fire station at every corner,” he said.

The transition from Engines to Squads at these three stations is designed to enhance operations of the Department.
“Everything that is done is to done to deliver the best possible service,” said Francis, who explained that it’s just as important to firefighters that their loved ones receive adequate care in an emergency. “You have to remember – we receive the exact same services as you do.”
By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

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