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Fire commission agrees on fading out gate code list

By Staff | Oct 15, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI At its Oct. 8 meeting, the Captiva Island Fire Control District commission supported moving the district away from maintaining a list of residential gate codes to gain access to properties.

At its recent meeting, the Captiva Island Fire Control District’s commission voiced support for moving the district away from maintaining a list of residential gate codes to gain access during emergencies.

On Oct. 8, Fire Chief Jeff Pawul explained that the district has historically kept and updated a list of access codes for gated properties throughout the island, but the data has been harder to keep up-to-date because of the turnover in homes – plus rental properties and owners changing up the code or gate.

It is not uncommon for fire crews to arrive at a property and not be able to gain access.

“Do we want to continue to maintain that?” he asked the commission of the list.

Pawul noted that the list is kept in district vehicles, which also could present a liability.

“And nobody updates these things,” he added of the codes. “We get there, and they don’t work.”

Pawul floated the idea of moving the district away from maintaining a list of the codes. He suggested sending out letters to homeowners associations, properties and such to notify them of the change.

The commission indicated support for the idea.

“With all the technology we have today, it doesn’t make sense to have a paper list of codes,” Commissioner Jeffrey Brown said, adding that they also do not get updated, making them unless.

Commissioner C.W. Kilgore agreed that maintaining the list is not an easy task.

“It’s complicated,” he said.

Pawul also suggested outlining within the letter some alternatives for homeowners and property managers, specifically, installing an EVAC – Emergency Vehicle Access Control – system on the gate. With a push of a button, like a garage door opener, emergency responders can gain access.

As a bonus, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office also relies on EVAC to get onto properties.

The commissioners agreed with crafting a letter.

Pawul also provided the commission with an update on two recent fires that the Captiva crews responded to as an assisting agency. On Sept. 24 at about 10 p.m., there was a house fire on Upper Captiva on Panama Shell Drive. He reported that the home was south of the island’s fire station.

“Our station left from here,” Pawul said, adding that the crew took along two members from the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District, traveling to the north island on Captiva’s new fire vessel.

“All of the county assets responded from the Pineland Marina,” he said.

The house was completed destroyed in the fire; there were no reported injuries.

“They only lost one full house,” Pawul said.

The Captiva and Sanibel crew members returned at about 3 a.m.

“It was a long night,” he said.

The second incident also occurred on Upper Captiva. On Oct. 6 at about 7 p.m., a small brush fire broke out on South Banks Drive. Pawul reported that the fire was creeping toward a residence.

“They were concerned about structures,” he said.

The Captiva crew responded via boat to offer assistance and manpower.

“No other agencies responded on that one,” Pawul said. “That one wasn’t that big.”

The Captiva team assisted Upper Captiva by providing a water supply from its boat pump.

In addition, the Captiva crew provided a water escort for a sinking vessel on Oct. 10 at about 11 a.m. The 30-foot Grady was about 15 miles west of Redfish Pass, in the Gulf, when it sent out a distress call that it was taking on water. The vessel had a cracked sternum, and there were three people on board.

“They were heading toward Captiva,” Pawul said.

He reported that a tow boat ended up towing the vessel to Upper Captiva, where it was beached. Meanwhile, the Captiva fire crew provided the escort for the sinking vessel and tow boat.

Pawul added that there were no reported injuries.


– Pawul reported that the district’s union negotiations recently concluded. The education article has been ratified by both parties, with the changes related to the guidelines on paramedic schooling.

“More opportunities to attend paramedic school,” he said. “To seek further education.”

The changes apply to the position of firefighter.

– Pawul gave each of the commissioners a letter from the Fort Myers Beach fire commission that asks them to add their support to a local push for better water quality and water measures.

“It’s up to you guys if you want to put the district’s name on a topic like that,” he said.

– In September, the district clocked 269 hours of training and conducted 38 annual inspections.