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Sanibel fire chief officially sworn in

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Nov 24, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Sanibel Fire and Rescue District Fire Chief William “Bill” Briscoe was officially sworn in before the fire commission at the Nov. 18 meeting.

The Sanibel Fire and Rescue District’s commission held the official swearing in ceremony for the district’s new fire chief at its meeting, as well as heard updates on numerous items of interest.

On Nov. 18, Fire Chief William “Bill” Briscoe was sworn in before the commission. The commissioners voted unanimously last month to promote him to the lead position — which he had been serving on an interim basis — after the resignation of former Fire Chief Matt Scott.

Also during the meeting, Briscoe reported that the Lee County commissioners signed off on the district’s application for advanced life support non-transport services. At a Nov. 10 public hearing, the county board passed the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) application.

“They read it, they asked for comment, they closed it, they passed it,” he said.

With the county’s approval of the COPCN, the district can apply to the state for its advanced life support (ALS) license now. Rather than piggybacking off of Lee County EMS, the district can hire its own medical director to oversee staff training and education, which can be tailored for the island.

The district has chosen Dr. Benjamin Abo to serve as its new medical director.

On a related noted, the Captiva Island Fire Control District has been going through the same process and also choose Abo as its medical director. The county commission approved its COPCN on Nov. 17.

Also at the meeting, Division Chief of Training Tim Barrett reported on a recent rescue call that the district responded to. A man was trimming a tree when he accidentally hit his arm with a chainsaw. He explained that the Sanibel police arrived first and the officer placed a tourniquet on the victim’s arm.

“The awesome thing was we trained them to do this,” Barrett said, adding that the district has conducted tourniquet training with the police on how to put one on their self and another person.

“It was a huge factor. He could have been in real trouble,” he said of the victim.

Barrett noted that the two agencies have a great working relationship.

Also during the meeting, Briscoe reported on two recent fires. The first one on Island Inn Road involved lots of smoke and water damage and the cause remains undetermined. The second incident occurred on East Gulf Drive and additional outside agencies responded to offer their assistance.

He also provided a report on Nov. 11 — when Tropical Storm Eta rolled through the area.

“We ran 13 calls in eight hours,” Briscoe said, adding that they consisted of downed power lines and trees, calls on sitting water and regular medical incidents. “We were running back-to-back calls.”

Also at the meeting, Barrett provided an update on ongoing training.

For fire training this month, the crews are focusing on the first five minutes of arriving on scene, including what to do. They also have been training on how to shut off and secure the multiple solar panels atop Bailey’s General Store. Medical training for the month will focus on airway anatomy.

Also during the meeting, Assistant Administrator Samantha Quinn was asked to recount for the commission her recent deployment to Oregon and Washington to assist with the fires. She explained that she served as lead public information officer for two different fires in two different forests.

“I helped disseminate information (to the public),” Quinn said. “Kind of what I do here.”

On a related noted, district officials praised her for taking over the agency’s social media pages in recent months, as there has been a strong and positive uptick in reach as a result of her efforts.


– The commission voted 3-0 to approve a motion to remove or dispose of surplus items at the district. Before the vote, Briscoe explained that the items are non-working or broken, like office equipment.

– Barrett reported that the Sanibel Prescribed Fire Task Force held a virtual team meeting.

“There’s areas they want to think about burning,” he said. “We’re key players in that.”

– Briscoe reported that he is searching for a diesel pump replacement for the brush truck.

– The following personnel were recognized for their years of service: Engineer-EMT Ed Zarick for five years.

– The district responded to 96 calls in October, compared to 119 calls last year. The district has responded to a total of 1,143 calls this year, compared to 1,374 calls for the same timeframe in 2019.

– The district’s pinning ceremony was set to take place on Nov. 21 at The Community House. Three staffers were honored for passing the one-year probation, with a fourth person’s promotion recognized.