Adding ambulance at 2 rural fire stations becomes point of contention

Fire union, JFRD leaders discuss possible plan to change service

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Union negotiators and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department leaders sat face to face Thursday arguing about a plan to change service by assigning an ambulance at stations in two rural Jacksonville communities.

The areas affected would be near station 45 in Black Hammock Island and eventually near station 43 in Maxville.

One side calls this a public safety issue. The other says it's about the safety of emergency responders.

"I believe direct impact to public safety," Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt said of the issue. "So we'll make a decision soon."

"If the chief is under concept, we'll transfer companies out there," fire union President Randy Wyse said. "Now you're stripping other areas of the same amount of firefighters."

Negotiators met at fire headquarters downtown Thursday afternoon, where the fire union asked questions and voiced concerns about a proposed "dual response" plan.

JFRD believes adding an ambulance but not adding staff to the fire stations would cut down on long response times in the rural areas.

The union believes it could leave stations short-staffed trying to respond to fires.

"You're going to leave -- there's four people now; if two people leave, math tells me, two left to cover maybe an 80- to 90-square-mile area," Wyse said.

Senterfitt said it won't affect firefighters' safety.

"Reason I say that, we already have policies in place how to respond if for some reason your staffing is less than desirable," he said.

Station 45 in Black Hammock Island would be part of a pilot program. Station 43 in Maxville would be next if the pilot program works.

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