TAMPA, Fla — On Thursday, Tampa City Council was trying to figure out how to reduce expenses and improve response time at one of the busiest fire stations in the country.
The issues facing Tampa’s Fire Station 13 are likely to affect other parts of the city, where a construction boom has not included building more stations.
Station 13 is one of two dozen fire stations in the city of Tampa, but it handles about one in every seven calls.
“It’s an abomination what’s happened over at 13,” Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera said.
The department’s top brass told the city council about the potential danger the situation has created.
Overall, Tampa Fire Rescue says it falls short of its 8.5-minute response-time goal, 90 percent of the time. At station 13 you can add an overtime crisis, with firefighters spread thin.
“It is unacceptable,” Viera said. “The conditions that these men and women work under. It is unacceptable that these communities, many underserved communities, have got to be subject to this.”
In response, the city is looking at a staggered plan which immediately reassigns more personnel to station 13, changes its peak time staffing, and re-locates another engine there.
“You know, a few seconds means an hour to somebody in law enforcement or first responders,” Tampa City Councilman Orlando Gudes said.
After trying out these short-term measures for 45-60 days, the fire department will come back to the city to report how much of an impact those immediate steps have had.
Over the next six months to a year, the department also recommends expanding Fire Station 11 a few miles away on Waters Avenue, to ease the burden. Also, implementing the city’s new computer-aided dispatching equipment to improve efficiency.
They could also re-fit the Tampa Police Department’s nearby K9 training building after it moves to another location this year.
“If we can’t help the firefighters do their job, we the city are doing a disservice,” Councilman Joseph Citro said.
The department told city leaders those measures could help improve response times around station 13, but they also set a long-term goal of constructing more fire stations over the next five years.
If not, they say other areas experiencing high growth like Channelside and New Tampa will continue to be at risk.
“That’s why we need more stations, more manpower and more equipment because we’re growing out a lot faster pace than our department is growing,” said the firefighters’ union president, Joe Greco.
Tampa Fire Chief Barbara Tripp told the council she personally served two tours at Fire Station 13 during her career, and that in all that time very little has changed.
She says she does not yet have an estimate on how much it will cost to build the new fire stations the city needs.
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