Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon fire chief seeks 15 more firefighters and gets one

TARPON SPRINGS — During a recent budget workshop, fire Chief Stephen R.M. Moreno told city commissioners it would take an additional 15 firefighters to bring the city's department up to the recommended staffing level.

On Tuesday, they gave him one.

The board agreed to open a frozen position, which will bring the number of firefighter/EMTs to 33, or 11 per shift, without factoring in vacations and sick time.

Members also okayed overtime pay to add another firefighter on each shift during periods of peak activity.

The decision is a move in the right direction, said Moreno, who took over the department's top post late in 2005.

"It is a 25-year-old problem and you can't solve it overnight," Moreno said.

The Fire Department has had the same number of firefighters since 1983, Moreno said.

Since then, the population has grown by 60 percent and calls for service have more than quintupled from 800 in 1983 to 4,000 last year.

The National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit organization that helps set industry standards, advocates a response from 15 to 16 firefighters for a one-room residential fire.

That means Tarpon needs to wait for help from neighboring departments, such as East Lake and Palm Harbor.

"If it's a working fire — that means if we see smoke or we're preparing to take a line in — we have to have their assistance," Moreno said.

That's not uncommon in Pinellas County, where departments operate under mutual aid agreements.

Factoring in paid time off and sick leave, Dunedin carries an average of 13 firefighters per shift, and Safety Harbor, 10 to 11.

"Anyone with less than four fire stations, it's hard to get those 15 to 16 that NFPA standards say," said Dunedin fire Chief Bud Meyer.

Dunedin has three stations and Tarpon has two.

The board on Tuesday also agreed to pay overtime to devote more efforts to inspections and "pre-incident" planning, which is used to acquaint firefighters with specific structures and their hazards before a fire starts.

The overtime pay will come from $457,000 already factored into the department's $4.4-million budget, said interim City Manager Mark LeCouris.

Tarpon firefighters make about $76,000 a year, including benefits.

While the city's overall general fund budget is decreasing this year, the Fire Department's budget is increasing by $445,000.

LeCouris, who also serves as police chief, said the city may need to consider raising taxes next year to pay for more firefighters, but he said the shortage hasn't impeded fire service.

"If we were concerned about a real safety issue we would have been hollering and screaming to get what we need," LeCouris said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow @sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Tarpon fire chief seeks 15 more firefighters and gets one 09/03/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 6, 2008 4:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shark Week 2017: Michael Phelps races a shark and other must-see specials

    Blogs

    It's that time of year again. No, not back to school month or geek convention season -- it's Shark Week.

    For almost 30 years, Discovery Channel has brought a full week of special programs on the toothy underwater predators through Shark Week.
  2. HomeTeam 100: Players 51-60

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA - Wharton defensive back AJ Hampton will help lead the Wildcats into the 2017 season. Taken 7-6-17 by Scott Purks
  3. Clearwater Beach driver's roommate thought she could help turn his life around

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — Ryan Michael Stiles wanted to start fresh. Sarah Lynn Wright wanted to help.

    Ryan Michael Stiles, 27, is seen while driving his vehicle on Clearwater Beach Thursday, July 20, 2017. Stiles was stopped on the north end of Caladesi Island after driving up from Clearwater Beach, police said. [Facebook]
  4. The Iron Yard coding academy to close in St. Petersburg

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Iron Yard, a code-writing academy with a location in downtown St. Petersburg, will close for good this summer.

    Instructors (from left) Mark Dewey, Jason Perry, and Gavin Stark greet the audience at The Iron Yard, 260 1st Ave. S, in St. Petersburg during "Demo Day" Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at The Iron Yard, which is an immersive code school that is part of a trend of trying to address the shortage of programmers.  The academy is closing this summer.  [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  5. Florida's unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

    Markets

    How low can Florida's unemployment go? Pretty low, according to the state's latest unemployment numbers. The Sunshine State's unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent for June, down from 4.3 percent in May, state officials said Friday morning.

    Florida's unemployment level dropped to 4.1 percent in June from 4.3 percent in May. |  [Times file photo]