Saturday, June 16, 2018
Public safety

County sends career firefighters to staff volunteer fire company

PLANT CITY — A volunteer fire company that had its public funding yanked by the county says it can no longer staff Fire Station 26.

Cork-Knights asked Hillsborough County Fire Rescue at 8 p.m. Thursday to send career firefighters to continue service to the community surrounding the station at 5302 W Thonotosassa Road, said Ray Yeakley, a spokesman for fire rescue.

The change comes on the heels of an audit that asked Hillsborough County to rethink its use of its six volunteer firefighter associations because they may cost more than they are worth.

Yeakley said the station wasn't able to drum up enough volunteers to staff three shifts. As a station with only one engine, each shift requires a captain, an engine driver and a firefighter. Fire rescue will provide the nine personnel needed until another solution is developed. As part of their contract, those career firefighters will be paid overtime to work at a volunteer fire station, Yeakley said.

Last month the county shut off public funding to Cork-Knights and another station after auditors discovered problems with their tax-exempt status. According to county documents, Cork-Knights could not produce the tax records required of nonprofits.

Yeakley said the move is not a takeover of the defunct fire company but an attempt to stabilize service to the community. Two other stations, 18 at 3096 S Kingsway Road in Seffner, and 23 at 3138 Sydney Dover Road in Dover, are being monitored for similar problems to Cork-Knights, he said.

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