JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Firefighters battled flames roaring out of control Tuesday that consumed more than 400 acres of Pumpkin Hill Preserve.
Jacksonville Fire Rescue Chief Marty Senterfitt says 75 firefighters from all over Jacksonville were called in early to help. "We had plenty of time to set up. We literally had to wait 45 minutes for the fire to get to us today," he said.
Firefighters were able to save two homes from flames that came within 50 feet. Fire Union President Randy Wyse says their efforts were tremendous, but the the process wasn't perfect. He says efforts to become more efficient have backfired within the department recently.
"Saving money. That's what it's all about these days," said Wyse.
Just three weeks ago, a rescue unit was added to the Black Hammock Fire Station, which is just a few miles from Pumpkin Hill. Wyse believes the department doesn't have the manpower to handle extra equipment, but Senterfitt says the decision is already paying off.
According to Senterfitt, "When people call 911 for medical care they're getting help 20 minutes quicker than before."
But the number of staff at the Black Hammock station did not change when the new unit was added, and Wyse worries crews are now streched thin and, as a result, are at risk. He said, "It's frustrating for the men and women out there that have a job to do and don't have the tools and manpower to do it effectively."
Senterfitt tells Action News that's not the case. Rather, he believes more equipment gives crews a choice and it is better for the community overall. He said, "Our economy is such we've jut got to be smart with what we do. And today shows we can fight fires and save lives."
Wyse is calling on the department to reevaluate it's efficiency plan. Senterfitt says he plans to move forward with changes at other stations which includes adding staff in Baldwin.