JFRD steps in to help Clay County Fire Rescue with high number of emergency calls

The impact of COVID-19 and the surge in cases has Clay County Fire Rescue asking firefighters in Jacksonville for help.

Clay County Fire Rescue said the problem isn’t within the department, but with making sure they can best help neighbors in need.

According to Annaleasa Winter, the Public Information Officer with the Board of County Commissioners, Clay County Fire Rescue has seen a higher call volume during the last week -- than at any point during the pandemic.

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To put this high call volume into perspective, Winter explained to Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole that on average, CCFR receives about 70, emergency (911) calls per day. The recent uptick brought that number up to an average of more than 90 calls daily, and 103 calls on Monday.

“We’re all in this pandemic together. That’s just what we do, we help each other to get through times of crisis,” said Chief Keith Powers of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

Powers told Cole they received a request for help from Clay County Fire Rescue on Monday for what’s known as “mutual aid help.”

“The way they work, if they have a large fire, a large MCI event, or just getting inundated with calls as we all do at times, they have the ability to pick up the phone and call and say ‘hey, can you send a couple of units to help,’” Powers explained.

The chief of JFRD said they have mutual aid agreements in place with all surrounding fire and rescue departments.

“This is a common occurrence. [We] do the same thing in Clay County, Nassau County, Baker, St. Johns,” Powers said.

In this case, Clay County Fire Rescue was receiving a lot more calls than usual.

Winter told Cole staffing is not the issue. She explained that it was the rescue [crews] taking much longer to drop patients and get back in service.

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“Obviously with the rescue units going to hospitals, and the hospitals right now, because of COVID are backlogged some, they have some wait time at the hospital. They just needed us to come in and provide a couple units to help them provide coverage until they can get caught back up,” Powers told Action News Jax.

Powers said they provided two units, a total of four people, for a couple of hours. Response times in Jacksonville were not impacted.

Powers told Cole Mayor Lenny Curry allowed JFRD to make sure the entire department has Advance Life Support capabilities.

So when another fire department reaches out, they’re in a great position to be able to jump in and help.