Following a FOX 29 Investigation into Palm Beach County Fire Rescue stations struggling with long response times, changes are in the works.
County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, County Administrator Verdenia Baker and Fire Rescue Chief Jeff Collins met Monday morning to discuss better emergency coverage for the roughly 40,000 people who live in the rural area known as The Acreage.
The long-term goal is moving Station 22 out of a former Winn-Dixie strip mall on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in Loxahatchee and building a brand-new facility that can accommodate a larger staff.
County commissioners say the money has already been set aside for the project, but the land won't be available until May 2017. This means construction of the new fire station will not be completed until May 2018.
"The call volume right now doesn't warrant too many changes at this time," said County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.
FOX 29 compared staffing and call volumes at all 49 Palm Beach County Fire Rescue stations in the month of January.
When you break down calls per firefighter, Station 22 falls right in the middle of the pack. But 40 percent of Station 22's emergency calls took longer than 10 minutes to respond to. That's four times higher than the county's average.
"Is that something that concerns you?" asked FOX 29 Investigator Jared Werksma.
"Yes it is. I'm also dealing with a rural and a sub-rural area and a road network that's not stellar," said McKinlay.
She says to combat that they are putting some immediate measures in place.
"We're doing some move ups from some of our slower stations," McKinlay said.
That means moving two firefighters and an ambulance from Station 21 or Station 27, based on availability, to assist Station 22 and 26 whenever possible.
"Were there any real conversations about adding another station to the Acreage?" asked Werksma.
"There was conversation about adding a station at 20 mile bend," said McKinlay.
Throughout our investigation, people have told us they believe adding a third station to help cut down on the area Stations 22 and 26 need to cover is the only way to truly cut down on response times in the Acreage.
At this point, it is only in the discussion phase according to McKinlay, but that is a step closer to reality than it was in February when our first investigation aired.
McKinley says Station 22 and 26 should start receiving staffing and equipment support from Stations 21 and 27 in the next few days. McKinlay and Chief Collins also discussed the possibility of adding another fire engine to either Station 22 or Station 26 in January 2017.
We will let you know if and when these changes are made and how effective they are. We have asked Chief Collins and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue to participate in this investigation since it started in January. They continue to decline.