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Fire district examining call times

By Staff | Mar 26, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Sanibel Fire Chief Matt Scott, left, and Commissioner Jerry Muench, right, discuss the results of a preliminary report on the district's response times across the island presented at the meeting.

After hearing about the longer response times to calls for service on the island’s east end, the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District’s commission directed staff to gather more information and report back.

At the meeting on March 20, Fire Chief Matt Scott presented the commissioners with data from a preliminary report outlining response times across Sanibel. Commissioner Jerry Muench had brought up the subject at last month’s meeting and the commission asked staff to pull together the numbers.

Scott explained that the district’s post-disaster or hurricane map was used to compile the findings, which breaks the island down into 10 zones. He noted that the slowest response times are taking place in zones one through four in the east, with the majority ranging from eight minutes to 10 minutes.

The other zones were at four minutes or under, with some spots hitting up to six minutes.

Zone one covers the Causeway, and zone two is east of the Causeway Boulevard and Lindgren Boulevard. Zone three is west of the Causeway Boulevard and north of Periwinkle Way over to Dixie Beach Boulevard, and zone four is south of Periwinkle between Lindgren and Casa Ybel Road.

PHOTO PROVIDED The report shows the district's response times throughout Sanibel.

“It does kind of make sense,” Scott said, citing residential density.

He explained that while no one resides in the Causeway zone, about 55 percent of the island’s total residences are located within the remaining three zones on the east end – 4,642 out of 8,453.

“Forty-eight percent of our total call volume is to those areas,” Smith said.

According to figures from 2015 to 2018, zone four had the highest total number of calls for service, followed by zone two. In addition, district calls island-wide have increased over the last 10 years.

“It’s spiking up,” Scott said.

PHOTO PROVIDED With a mock third fire station (SAFD173) added to the model, the data reflected a significant drop in response times to calls for service to the island's east end, changing the routes from red to green.

As for how to address the rising response times in the east, he floated the idea of setting up a fire station closer to the area. Randomly pinpointing the Dairy Queen as the site, Scott had Lee County run the data to see what impact the station would have on the district’s response times to service calls.

“There’s no rhyme or reason,” he said of picking the site. “This is all theory.”

Scott reported that the model reflected a significant reduction in calls times in the areas – to four minutes or less. The addition of the “third station” even reduced response times in zones five and six.

He questioned, however, where the district would even put a new station.

“Land is at a premium,” Scott said.

PHOTO PROVIDED With a mock third fire station (SAFD173) added to the model, the data reflected a significant drop in response times to calls for service to the island's east end, changing the routes from red to green.

He also pointed out the impact to the district’s budget as it would take a minimum of at least 12 employees to staff the new station, plus providing the necessary equipment and apparatus.

After some discussion, the commission directed Scott to research the issue further.

“We should at least look at it,” Commissioner Richard McCurry said.

“We’ve got to look at this,” Muench echoed. “We’re got to prepare for the traffic.”

Also during the meeting, Assistant Fire Chief William Briscoe told the commission that the drywall repairs at Station 172 have been completed and that the foundation is being dug and poured at the same station for the replacement radio tower. In addition, the grant for the new vessel has been submitted.

Scott reported that recent hire firefighter Kara Palumbo has left and joined the South Trail Fire Protection and Rescue Service District. He explained that it was nothing the district did, she wanted to work for a busy agency. She left in good standing and would be reconsidered for an island job.

“I never got that,” Muench said. “Busier is not always better.”

Scott reported that a replacement for Palumbo is in the works. An EMS employee with 10 years of experience has been offered a job. Currently in a paramedic program, he is expected to start in April.

Fire Marshal Rick Tassoni told the commission that BIG ARTS is expected to begin demolishing its building at the end of the month. Originally planned in four phases, it is now looking at one phase.

He reported that the district needs to form a new appeals board for those who want to dispute code violations, citations or requirements. It should consist of the commissioners and two outside members.

“We need a minimum of five people on the board,” Tassoni said.

He noted that the board is expected to meet tri-annually.

“We’ve never had an appeal yet,” Tassoni said.


– Scott reported that the annual MDA Fill the Boot drive, held March 8-10, raised about $5,400.

“Which is more than double what we’ve raised before,” he said.

– The following employees were recognized for their years of service to the district: Fire Marshal Rick Tassoni for eight years; and Firefighter Rob Wilkins for six years.

– Scott reported that maintenance mechanic Barry Burks is retiring. He has been a full-time employee for six years, and prior to that he worked part-time for the district.