MARCO ISLAND — City of Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Michael Murphy has been trying for years to get the city to man Station 51, the fire station on the north side of Elkham Circle East, on a full-time basis. Now, with the help of some impact fee dollars, it looks like his wish is coming true.
Monday evening, the Marco Island City Council voted to approve the expenditure of $16,000 for improvements at the station, which is currently staffed part-time. Chief Murphy lauded the move, saying it will dramatically cut response time on the north side of the island, saving precious minutes in the crucial first minutes of responding to an emergency call.
With the daytime staffing his department has had at Station 51, said Murphy, they have been able to compile statistics showing a comparison in speed of response with and without firefighters at the facility.
“In fire-rescue and life safety, time is critical,” he said. “Every minute means less damage, both in a fire and a medical emergency. We’ve seen a reduction of 50 percent in response time, utilizing the station on Elkcam Circle,” for zones served most effectively from the station.
With an overall fire department budget of $4,530,000, the department’s budget contains $35,000 for Station 51. The added $16,000 comes from revenue derived from impact fees, which can only be used to pay for growth-related expenses.
The need is pressing at Station 51, said Murphy.
“We have windows that are being held shut with duct tape,” he said, that will be replaced by impact windows with the impact fee money. Renovations also include sealing interior doors and installing a vehicle exhaust fan in the apparatus bay, to keep diesel fumes out of the station’s interior spaces. Murphy added that the firefighters have done a lot on their own to improve the livability of the facility.
Murphy displayed a chart showing response times, with times cut over three minutes for calls from areas near Station 51.
“When you’re having a heart attack, or you’re bleeding, three minutes is huge,” he said, and the same is true of structure fires, where early response is key. It adds up, said his handout, to a “dramatic improvement in response times, when we have personnel at this fire station.”
The time savings are even more noticeable during seasonal heavy traffic, or when vehicles are backed up, as they have been on Bald Eagle during the utility improvements recently, said Murphy. He also pointed out that Station 51 is much nearer to the fire department’s boat, located behind the Pier 81 marina, speeding response for marine calls.
“This has been on the table for years,” noted Council Vice-chairman Larry Magel, indicating his approval. “The chief says this will be all we spend, and we can spend impact fees, as long as it’s growth-related.”
“I think it’s a good first step, using impact fees,” agreed Councilman Bill Trotter. With Councilman Wayne Waldack making a motion for approval, the expenditure passed on a vote of 6-0, with Chairman Frank Recker absent.
Murphy said the department will staff Station 51 with one fire engine, a paramedic vehicle with trained medical emergency responders aboard.
“We’ll leave the tower (truck) and another truck here,” he said, speaking outside the fire station at Bald Eagle and San Marco.