JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Staffing concerns had JFRD and the firefighters union going at it again Thursday. JFRD says it's looking to increase efficiency by posting ambulances at two stations on the outskirts of town. The union says there simply aren't enough firefighters at those stations to effectively respond to both fire and medical emergencies.
When a massive marsh fire broke out on Black Hammock Island back in October, the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters says the fire station in that area was understaffed and under equipped to handle it. Now, it says JFRD is proposing another plan which will put that part of town in danger again.
"Now, they're talking about staffing two pieces of equipment with basically the same amount of people, which splits those crews," said Union President Randy Wyse. "It can create some real problems."
Here's the deal. JFRD just got several new ambulances. Chief Marty Senterfitt told Action News weeks ago that he wants to use those ambulances at more calls, sending only an ambulance to medical calls, instead of an ambulance and a fire engine, which is standard procedure now. "We're going to the same number of calls with the same number of people," said Chief Senterfitt.
The firefighters union says that's a plan that sounds good on paper, but not in practice. The union says stations in Black Hammock Island and in Maxville only staff about 4 firefighters at a time. If two are transporting patients to the hospital, that only leaves two to respond to a fire. And that's not enough. It takes four people to run an engine.
"It minimizes the public safety and firefighter safety," said Wyse. "And, I just don't believe it's a very good plan."
Chief Senterfitt says he's just trying to increase efficiency. "At the end of the day, our first and foremost goal here in fire administration is can we provide better service. If that answer is yes, we're gonna pursue it."
The union says he's jeopardizing public safety. "I understand the chief's attempt to make ambulance response in that area quicker. But the way he's doing it, I believe, is making it more dangerous for the citizens out there and the firefighters," said Wyse.
There were no final decisions made Thursday. Both sides spent the afternoon trying to convince the other why the plan does or does not work.
Wyse says a similar plan was tried in the late 80s, and failed.