Firefighter Union To Lawmakers: Don't Make Us Fight Solo

Feb 17, 2014

Credit Florida Forest Service

A Florida legislative panel is weighing the Florida State Fire Service Association’s demand that firefighters no longer be sent to respond to fires alone. Having at least two responders to every wildfire would cost the state an estimated $3 million annually.

Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels says the increased staffing mandate is not necessary because the lowest-risk fires only require one firefighter—and if he sends two to one fire, it’s possible nobody will be available when the next one breaks out.

“Safety-wise, purely, if I can send two firefighters to every fire every time with no other decisions, I’m good with that. But we’ve got to look at it on effectiveness and efficiency too," he says.

But Rep. Mike Clelland (D-Lake Mary) says his experience as a firefighter makes him question the department’s refusal.

"I just can’t imagine one person responding to a forest fire or a brush fire," he says. "I spent my whole adult life in the fire service.”

The firefighters’ request is among several issues the legislative panel is weighing because unions and state departments have come to an impasse.

The committee’s forthcoming recommendation on the proposal will go legislative leaders for a full vote.