JFRD plans to 'open' new fire station before it's built

Fire Station 65 personnel would work from other stations until building is ready

By Jennifer Ready - Reporter, Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department leaders think adding more firefighters to the Arlington area is so important they want to "open" a new fire station there before the building is built.

In a budget proposal to the Mayor's Office on Friday, JFRD interim Fire Chief Keith Powers suggested that 18 firefighters could be hired to "staff" Station 65 even before the station has actually been built. The station will be placed in one of the busiest areas for fire and rescue calls.

Powers explained that the firefighters would be housed at four nearby stations in the meantime and would have a back-up engine at their disposal -- and they would respond only to calls from what will be Station 65's zone.

“In our business, minutes equal lives,” Powers said. “We will get there quicker, and we can start saving people’s lives. The further out that goes, the less chance of survival.”

Powers' proposal includes money for an additional 48 new firefighters, beyond those for Station 65, which he said are needed because the current generation doesn't like to work overtime, and he needs more personnel to fill in where they're needed. Those 48 would cost about $2.5 million. The 18 firefighters for Fire Station 65 would cost just over $1 million, including one-time gear and training costs.

Randy Wyse, head of the local fire union, disagrees with the chief's perception, saying he believes that news firefighters would work overtime if given the opportunity.

Altogether, JFRD is asking for about $25 million more than it got in last year's budget.

Last year, JFRD asked for more than $226 million, a $9.7 million budget increase to buy new equipment, rescue vehicles and to reduce response times.

Last summer, the average response time was 7 minutes. 

Earlier this year, JFRD added four new rescue units to help ensure quicker response times. 

JFRD’s budget request comes one day after Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams presented his request.

The Sheriff’s Office asked for $445 million, including money to buy more body cameras and to hire staff for the new real-time crime center. JSO's request does not include money to hire more officers. 

“We got a lot of technology that we put in place the last couple of years that has built-in some efficiencies and we want to see that work and then, as I mentioned, we’re going to have an assessment at the end of the year,” Williams said.

This is all being taken into consideration as the Mayor's Office prepares its budget, which will come out in July. And the full City Council will vote on it in September.  

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