JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The fire department is asking for a 4.3 percent increase in next year's budget that would include funding for six additional rescue vehicles -- enough that one could be assigned to each of Jacksonville's fire stations.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Kurt Wilson presented its $226.5 million request for 2018-2019 to the mayor’s staff Thursday. That's a $9.7 million increase from the current year.
Of those proposed funds, $2.3 million would be used to buy and equip the additional rescue vehicles.
Wilson showed a map of the six fire stations currently without rescue units and said the new ambulances would reduce response time.
Currently, JFRD's average response time is 7 minutes.
"Obviously, time matters in our business," Wilson said. "We want to get people there in four minutes."
A woman who lives down the street from Jacksonville's Station 17 -- a Northwest Jacksonville station that currently does not have a rescue unit assigned -- welcomes the move.
"Seeing that it’s just an engine, it’s just completely different because it’s almost like you have to wait double to get the services that you need," Kati Roaches said.
Funding is already in place and plans are being drawn up for three additional fire stations.
Six stations without assigned rescue units highlighted in map above
Last year's JFRD budget presentation focused on increasing costs to treat people overdosing from opioids. While it's still a problem, Wilson said the numbers are going down.
Wilson also noted that the makeup of rescue call is changing, with Baby Boomers now making up 55 percent of the emergency runs.
"Take the population that’s been growing in Duval County -- people who are wanting to move. Here you have the commuters from surrounding counties during the day, and then you see the Baby Boomer generation that’s getting older, and that is why our call volume is skyrocketing," Wilson said.
The mayor’s staff took the presentation under consideration. Each department's budget request will figure into Mayor Lenny Current's total budget proposal that will be presented to City Council in July.