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Fire district discusses coronavirus, receives updates

By Staff | Mar 17, 2020

TIFFANY REPECKI Fire Chief Jeff Pawul reviews the Captiva Island Fire Control District’s protocols for responding to potential coronavirus-related incidents during the fire commission's meeting on March 10.

The Captiva Island Fire Control District’s commission learned of the protocols in place to handle possible coronavirus calls during its recent meeting, as well as heard updates on the purchase of a new radio for the truck, renewal of the district’s StormReady Community designation and other topics.

At the March 10 meeting, Fire Chief Jeff Pawul explained that the district has procedures in place regarding the team’s response to potential “infectious disease” calls. He reported that those protocols would be utilized for possible coronavirus-related incidents, with only one real difference to them.

When responding to a call involving a patient potentially infected with the coronavirus, only one member of the team will make initial connect with the person – rather than the entire arriving crew – and immediately put a mask on the person, then basic first aid will be provided until EMS arrives.

Pawul explained that Lee County EMS has the ability to decontaminate its team and even its ambulances in minutes because it possesses the necessary equipment, unlike the district.

“EMS has protocols right now and we’re going to follow their protocols,” he said.

The commissioners voiced relief that the district has procedures for handling such calls.

“It’s good to know we have those protocols in place,” Commissioner Jeffrey Brown said. “That makes me feel better.”

Also at the meeting, Pawul reported that Lee County approved the district using its impact fees to purchase the truck’s new radio. It cost approximately $7,000, with about $5,000 covered by the fees.

“So we were actually able to use a decent amount of that,” he said of the impact fees.

Also during the meeting, Pawul reported that the district received its StormReady Community designation. He added that the designation will be active for another three or four years.

Deputy Fire Chief Paul DeArmond provided the commission with an update on staff training. He reported that the crew recently took part in quarterly training at the Southwest Florida Public Service Academy. It was cooperative training, held in partnership with 21 other districts and departments.

“They were really impressed with the kind of equipment we had,” he said of the other agencies, explaining that they were able to bring along their truck because Estero volunteered to fill in.

“They came out here,” DeArmond said of the Estero Fire Rescue District.

The commissioners voiced appreciation for Estero’s generosity.

“That’s awesome,” Commissioner C.W. Kilgore said.

“That’s so nice,” Commissioner Sherrill Sims added.

Pawul noted that it also served as some training for Estero because of the communities’ differences.

“It was good,” he said. “They had a blast and were super thankful their chief let them do it.”

Also at the meeting, DeArmond reported that Brown has offered up a house on a piece of island property that he owns for use by the district for training exercises. He said the team plans to use the home to train on a range of subjects, like initial attack, search and rescue, forced entry and more.

“It’s property I bought that’s going to end up being demolished,” Brown said.

The other commissioners thanked him for the offer.

“It’s just very much appreciated,” Sims said.

Also during the meeting, Pawul explained for the commission that he is exploring options for refinancing the lease for the fire station building. One he found would eliminate the district’s balloon payment that is scheduled to hit in 2024 and push back the district’s final payment until 2034.

It also would save the district $10,000 annually in payments.

He noted that he still has to approach the holder of the district’s current lease to find out if it has additional options available, and Pawul also wants to get a third offer if able for comparison.

He explained that the district will have to refinance in five years anyway.

“I’m all for restructuring this lease and taking advantage of the historically low rates,” Brown said.

Also at the meeting, the commission got to look over two thank you cards that the district recently received from calls it responded to. Both of the patients relayed that the crews saved their life.

IN OTHER NEWS

– The commissioners decided unanimously not to endorse political candidates on any level, agreeing that it is the commission’s role to remain impartial and not get involved in the political process.

– Pawul reported that the district’s auditor will be on site starting March 16 for the annual review.

“We’ve started the preliminary work,” he said. “So we’ve got that going on right now.”

– Pawul reported that he is exploring a possible vendor change for the district’s one credit card.

– In February, the district responded to 34 calls for service.