“The system is so stressed and it is hanging by a thread—literally,” said Dan Brask, president of the Escambia County Professional Firefighters Local 4131.
The union president recently wrote a letter to Escambia County officials and commissioners detailing his concerns. He argued that the county is overly reliant on volunteer firefighters. Over the past year, volunteer-staffed stations have failed to respond to several fire calls.
“Career fire companies routinely cover multiple fire districts when volunteers are unavailable, Brask wrote in his Aug. 28 letter. “The availability of volunteers is not predictable and becomes unreliable from day to night without forewarning. This lack of manpower significantly increases our response times with a net result of allowing the emergency to increase in severity. This then causes an increase in workload for firefighters and apparatus causing a decrease in acceptable service.”
Mike Weaver, the county’s Director of Public Safety, said the concerns were “nothing new.” He explained that increasing the level of service would require an increase in the amount county taxpayers paid for fire protection.
Weaver said he would relay the union’s concerns to the county commission, who would then decide if they needed to act, “or be comfortable with the staffing levels we’re doing.”