Fire Chief: North Escambia Volunteers Will Stay; No Impact After Volunteers Removed From Brent VFD

July 31, 2009

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The removal of volunteers from one Escambia County fire station does not signal any changes to fire stations in North Escambia; they will will continue to be manned by volunteers and a couple of daytime paid crews.

Acting Escambia County Fire Chief Jim Sanders removed the volunteers from the Brent Station recently, replacing them with paid crews to man the station 24/7. Sanders said the action was taken due to a decrease in the number of volunteers at the Brent Station, one of the county’s busiest.

Sanders said there are no plans to remove volunteer firefighters or add additional paid crews at any of the five stations — Century, Cantonment, McDavid, Walnut Hill and Molino — that serve North Escambia.

“Everybody in the north end has enough volunteers,” Sanders told NorthEscambia.com. “They have the volunteers to man the equipment and get it out. There are no problems in the north end.”

In addition, the call load in North Escambia is far below that of a station like Brent and several of the other departments in the middle and southern parts of the county.

There are two paid crews Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Century and Molino stations that augment the volunteer force. Those crews, Sanders said, fill the void created in the volunteer departments by the simple fact that many of the volunteers have jobs that might prevent them from answering daytime calls.

firevol11.jpg“The north end departments are part of close-knit communities, and they just work,” the acting fire chief said.

Eric Gilmore agrees. He serves as chief of the McDavid Station of Escambia Fire Rescue and is also president of the Escambia County Volunteer Firefighters Association.

“The county’s volunteers are very crucial to the fire system,” Gilmore said. “In the north end, the departments have the volunteers that are getting the trucks out the door, and we expect that will continue with no interruption.”

Sanders got his start in fire services at the Brent Volunteer Fire Department, signing on as a volunteer in 1973. He remained their until 2000 when he was hired a paid battalion chief.

“It was very hard to make the decision to remove the volunteers; it hurt bad,” he said. But rather than pay stipends to a few volunteers, Sanders said the county felt that the money would be better invested in paid firefighters that could properly man the station and answer a high call volume.

The volunteer removal at Brent was not spur of the moment; Sanders said County Administrator Bob McLaughlin met with the department about six months ago and told them the action would be taken if they could not increase their volunteer numbers and response rate.

Pictured top: A volunteer firefighter prepares to begin battling a house fire in Walnut Hill last year. Pictured inset: A firefighter at work. Pictured below: A Molino volunteer battles a hay fire. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge. 

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Comments

One Response to “Fire Chief: North Escambia Volunteers Will Stay; No Impact After Volunteers Removed From Brent VFD”

  1. Lynn J. Garrett, Sr. on August 1st, 2009 12:47 pm

    I am still trying to figure out how you can have PAID VOLUNTEERS in public TAX supported COUNTY GOVERNMENT services and call them VOLUNTEERS. They are not VOLUNTEERS if they are paid. PART-TIME EMPLOYEES maybe?

    Also, the reduction of, or modification to various FIRE PREVENTION services such as our TAX supported FIRE PREVENTION services which has to meet all kinds of State Insurance Laws leaves a lot to be desired to have an ACTING FIRE CHIEF take such independent action without the “SAY SO” of the VOTING PUBLIC and TAX PAYING CITIZEN!

    Someone needs to really give these changes serious consideration before proceeding with such knee jerk reactions. Our property in the North end of the county is just as likely to suffer losses as the downtown and beach locations and deserves more full time commitment not less.

    We are paying for FULL TIME coverage. Same as the rest of the county. If necessary do the same thing that has been done in the various school districts, close some fire stations, reduce the operating costs of the stations which only eat up tax dollars and put FULL TIME FIREMAN at one or two stations in the northend, but don’t just assume we have the best of protection and prevention because we are the northend.





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