Volusia County commissioners consider closing firehouses overnight

Comissioners try to fund Fire Rescue services, face $2 million budget gap

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Some areas of Volusia County could be left without overnight fire service under one plan discussed by county commissioners.

Facing a $2 million budget gap, commissioners are trying to find a long-term solution to fund their fire and rescue services.

The plan could result in rotating "brown outs" of fire stations around the county.  One station would be assigned to close at night, forcing another station to cover its emergencies.

"It doesn't sound like a good plan," said Cindy Britt of Rolling Acres.  "Not knowing who's covering what could be disasterous, and if there's two fires, it's impossible."

"We moved out here in 1998 before the fires that year," said Jim Simmons of Glenwood.  "They popped up everywhere, and not having a fire department would be pretty bad."

Fresh Off The Hook owner Bob Richards said a woman came into his restaurant on Wednesday and fainted. 

"She had a few gashes.  We called 911, and they were here in 3 or 4 minutes.  It was amazing."

Station 45, which is located five minutes from his restaurant responded.  It is also one of the stations that could be part of the "brown out" rotation.

"This is a plan that is dangerous and a risky continuation of a reduction in fire services," said Volusia County Professional Firefighters Association President Jeff Marris. 

He's referring to the already implemented reduction in fire and rescue staff.  Fire houses with a crew of three have been reduced to two.  That has resulted in a cut of one-third of the total fire and rescue budget over the last few years, said Marris.

Marris' group has recommended imposing a fee on county residents or imposing a special property tax assessment to help shore up the budget gap, but some county commissioners are fighting it.

At last week's county commissioners meeting, some argued that residents did not want to pay a "fee,"  calling it "another three letter word for 'tax.'"

The Volusia County Professional Firefighters Association requested a meeting with the county manager to discuss the budget gap and offer suggestions other than the rotating "brown outs." 

"This is going to put residents and firefighters in danger," Marris told Local 6.  "Residents face the risk of losing their houses, and firefighters risk a more involved fire if they have to travel farther to fight it."

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