Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lithia residents win Commissioner White's support to keep rescue truck

LITHIA — Retired Hillsborough County firefighter Lewis Duque told county officials they'd be signing the death warrants of critically ill and injured southeast Hillsborough County residents if they move the Lithia fire station's advanced life-support truck to the Riverview fire station.

Duque was among 20 Lithia residents who turned out for a community meeting Thursday at Pinecrest Elementary School about a proposal to shuffle the truck from Lithia to Riverview. The proposal is part of a six-month pilot program aimed at reducing Hillsborough County Fire-Rescue emergency response times.

Chief Dennis Jones, appointed Hillsborough County's top fire-rescue official a year ago, said he's trying to maintain life-saving rescue services without busting his $145 million annual budget.

"It's been very difficult to keep up with the growth," Jones said, adding that county fire-rescue has seen a 24 percent increase in calls since last year. "We need a lot more units than we have now."

But his proposal prompted a flurry of social media posts from upset residents, prompting County Commissioner Stacy White to schedule Thursday's community meeting.

"I've heard the community loud and clear, and I'm with you 100 percent," White told residents.

He plans to ask the county commission to approve a budget amendment at Wednesday's board meeting to purchase an additional advanced life-support truck for the Riverview fire station.

According to Jones, the vehicles cost about $300,000 but they require more than $1 million a year to staff and equip. Due to the expense, only 15 of the county's 43 fire stations have advanced life-support trucks.

Fire Station 2 at 6726 Lithia-Pinecrest Road is among them. It received its truck in 2014 after 15 years of lobbying by the community. Residents argued that the vehicle is critical to saving lives in this rural, farflung section of the county stretching east to the Polk County line and south to the Manatee County line.

All fire stations in the county have fire engine companies manned by paramedics and equipped with emergency medical equipment, but they can't transport patients to the hospital. Instead, they must wait for an advanced life-support truck.

That wait could mean the difference between life and death, Duque said.

"This is a unique station because of the distance it covers," he said. "With our zoning of one home per acre, we'll never meet the density requirements for a rescue unit. But there's a golden hour when it's crucial to get a critical care patient to the hospital. I've been on the scene when I've had to wait 35 to 40 minutes for a rescue unit to arrive."

Lithia resident Scott Lawrence, who retired last year after 38 years with Hillsborough County Fire-Rescue, choked up as he related a personal tragedy three years ago when his wife was forced to administer CPR to his daughter for 12 minutes while awaiting a rescue unit.

"The raw numbers don't show the reality," Lawrence said.

"We have got to make you understand that (rescue) truck has to stay here," Lithia resident Laura Filardo told county officials. "We used to wait almost an hour, and people used to die."

Jones assured residents that Lithia wouldn't lack an advance-life support truck for long.

The county is about to break ground on a new fire station in FishHawk Ranch, two miles from the Lithia station. The new station will be equipped with one of the vehicles.

However, the FishHawk station won't be completed until late 2017 or early 2018, and residents say that's too long for Lithia to be without a truck.

White agreed.

"I'm a fiscal conservative but nothing trumps public safety," he said. "I liken (truck) to an insurance policy. You have to have it but you hope to God you never have to use it."

Contact D'Ann Lawrence White at

Lithia residents win Commissioner White's support to keep rescue truck 07/15/16 [Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2016 11:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics


    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.