By Adam DiSarro
President, Local 4522
Big Corkscrew Professional Fire Fighters Association
Michael Ramsey’s comments in the guest commentary on Dec. 18 about the Big Corkscrew Island Fire Control and Rescue District (BCIFR) merging with East Naples/Golden Gate fire district are in dire need of some clarification, as many of his comments fall short of being even remotely accurate.
His concerns regarding a large brushfire starting at the drop of a match are genuine, and our ability to not adequately respond are completely untrue.
While I appreciate his concerns specific to our district, we live in a large vastly undeveloped county that routinely requires the response from multiple districts to control a large wildland fire.
Next, he mentions that there are not any fire hydrants east of CR 951/Collier Boulevard. However, I can assure him that I have firsthand knowledge of more than 1,000 active fire hydrants east of 951, most of which are supplied by Orange Tree Utilities within our district.
Furthermore, there are numerous draft hydrants and static water sources that BCIFR is adequately equipped for, and staffed to provide water supply as needed and where needed according to our most recent inspection by the Insurance Services Organization.
Ramsey then states that we do not currently have any water tenders, to serve as emergency water supply in the event of a fire. A review of our most recent audit will serve as proof that our district owns and operates two 3,000-gallon water tenders, two military-style brushfire trucks, and two quick-response attack firetrucks. It’s also worth noting that BCIFR has not lost a residence due to a brushfire in over 20 years.
In regards to finances, the East Naples/Golden Gate Fire district currently has 20 plus firefighters being paid their annual salaries through the Federal SAFER Grant Program which expires in less than a year.
While the Big Corkscrew Fire District has the capability of utilizing a 3.75 millage rate, we have not gone that high and don’t plan on it. We are currently at a 3.5 mills and our commission is focused on lowering that number when the opportunity presents itself without compromising level of service.
Yes, the district requested a millage rate increase, but in the end it was the majority of the citizens of our district that voted for it and subsequently passed it.
It stands to reason to the educated mind, that wise and prudent judgment should prevail with regard to consideration of a district merger. Subsequently, any other districts financial stability, and fiscal forecast are very important to consider when pondering such a large undertaking, as it relates to the success of the future merger. BCIFR is currently stabilized (as we are no longer dependent on federal grant funding for employees, unlike some of our neighboring districts) and surviving in this struggling economy, and with home/land values slowly on the rise, we will continue to remain stable through wise and prudent application of leadership.
I feel both a personal and a professional obligation to the residents of the Big Corkscrew Island Fire Control & Rescue District to reassure them that our personnel and apparatus are ready 24/7/365, if and when the need arises to answer their call for assistance, no matter the reference for need.
Furthermore, i assure them that from a fiscal perspective BCIFR is financially sound and stable according to current accepted government standard accounting practices.
In closing, I strongly suggest that any future “guest commentary” submitted by Ramsey, in any capacity, should be adequately researched and validated before going to press.