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City Council shows support for additional firefighters

By Staff | Apr 24, 2019

The Cape Coral City Council on Monday expressed its support to adding six firefighters to the city’s fire department, and the city manager will put a measure on the agenda for the next City Council meeting on May 6.

Fire Chief Ryan Lamb made a presentation to Council during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, showing them board what the vision is for the CCFD over the next five years, while analyzing the department’s strengths and weaknesses.

Much of the discussion regarded the need to improve response time, from the moment the 911 call comes in, to when fire and rescue arrives at the incident.

The city, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades, has not seen fire and rescue keep up with at growth, he said.

The city in 2001 was reaching its goal of arriving on the scene within six minutes 60 percent of the time, but saw those numbers slowly shrink throughout the next 15 years to about half that before spiking up in 2017.

Lamb said an improvement of just 30 seconds would help save property and lives. For a victim of cardiac arrest, for every minute that person is not resuscitated, the odds of survival drop 7 to 10 percent.

Also, every 30 seconds the size of a fire doubles, reducing the odds of keeping the fire in the same room, which would otherwise mean the loss of the entire house or even worse.

Adding firefighters would help, as would the anticipated addition of Stations No. 12 and 13 in the next few years. At buildout, 16 stations are expected, with nearly all of them within six minutes of a home.

Minimum staffing of 48 is needed per shift and there are currently 183 full-time positions, six short of the 189 needed, meaning the city has to pay overtime costs.

The city will pay for the additional positions with the overtime saved, he said, which made council members happy.

Mayor Joe Coviello was very interested in how to lower the city’s ISO rating, which is currently at a three, to a two, which would make it one of three cities with such a rating which would help residents save on homeowners insurance.

Cape Coral narrowly missed that mark last year, but with the inclusion of a possible training facility, along with the better response times, Lamb believed he could get the ISO down.

What made Councilmember David Stokes, himself a firefighter, especially happy was how the city was able to not only do its job well, but efficiently. With a budget of $31 million, it is a third of what Fort Lauderdale spends and at the bottom half of what other similar sized cities spend.

Lamb was happy the council was so receptive.

“Like every major problem, we have to break it down and digest it one piece at a time. We need to improve dispatch, turnout and travel times, but there isn’t a silver bullet,” Lamb said. “Ultimately, better times will save property and save lives. That’s what matters to the citizens.”

Stokes praised Lamb’s job performance and his presentation.

“We are not only one of the nest departments, but also one of the most efficient. Six firefighters will save $70,000 in overtime year over year,” Stokes said. “Thirty seconds means everything. It’s immeasurable.”