ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After 453 years, the nation's oldest city is still struggling to keep up with its growing population.
St. Augustine's fire chief reported a 30 percent increase to calls for service since 2010 while the city's population has grown by 9½ percent. City leaders said with more subdivisions under construction, they are working to ensure emergency services can keep up.
"Everyone likes to come to St. Augustine. It’s really the epicenter of culture," City Manager John Regan said.
St. Augustine has more than 14,000 permanent residents and hosts an estimated 6 million visitors each year. The government is responsible for public safety for all those residents and tourists.
"We are busier than we have ever been," St. Augustine Fire Chief Aviles said.
Aviles said his department responded to more than 4,200 incidents last year. More than two-thirds of those calls were for urgent medical care from vehicle crashes, heart attacks, injuries from violence and accidents. The average response time has averaged between just over 4 minutes to about 5½ minutes.
Growth of population, St. Augustine Fire Department's call for service
"We have an incredible fire department," Regan said. "We are in an elite class of service level called ISO 1. A very small fraction of all fire departments in the country are ISO 1. A big factor is response time."
With more homes being built in the city and even more tourists every year, Regan and Aviles know the fire department will need to grow.
"I think we are probably about three years out from having to expand," Regan said.
"We are managing the growth we have now well. I don’t feel the units currently are overstressed," Aviles said. "I just felt it was important to take this opportunity now before we see these population increases."
Aviles said the impact of a lot of developments being built won’t come until late 2019 and the city will be prepared.