Greater Naples fire district opens doors to public

Ann Hall

The open house at the Isles of Capri Fire-Rescue Station 90 was a long time in the making.

After three years of intense workshops, town hall meetings, meetings with county staff and commissioners, the deal was made, and through an interlocal agreement, Greater Naples Fire assumed the management of the formerly county-managed district.

"I just wanted the open house to be informal and not a structured presentation," said Kingman Schuldt, fire chief.

Lt. Jorge Lara stands beneath the new Greater Naples fire district seal installed on the back of the former Isles of Capri Fire Station 90.

Indeed that was the case when the doors to station 90 were opened to receive guests. There was an array of decorated cupcakes in an assortment of flavors, along with soft drinks and water to create an informal and leisurely atmosphere.

In front of the station there were more apparatus than the station has ever seen. Trucks and other vehicles bearing the logos of GNFire, East Naples, and the Marco Island Fire Chief were parked across and beside the station. GNFire's new Ladder 21 truck was also parked in front of one of the fire bays. Early that morning, crews were seen washing and polishing the equipment to make it ready for inspection.

Residents visited for the better part of two hours and had an opportunity to meet the chief, fire commissioners, fire marshal, firefighters and paramedics that will serve the district.

"This is going to be the beginning of something great," said Lt. Jorge Lara, a firefighter with Station 90 for eight years.

"I want to meet the members of the community in the districts we serve," said Schuldt, adding he felt it important for the community to know firefighters and paramedics serving them.

Collier County commissioner Donna Fiala and administrator Len Golden Price also were there. They both have worked to help the district make the decision that would be in the best interest of all. The goal has always been one of "getting the biggest bang for the buck."

"It seems weird that 20 years ago we were talking about consolidation and merger with another district," said Jeri Neuhaus, Capri business owner and resident of the former Capri district. "At that time, though, we were fighting against it because we wanted to see what we could do on our own."

Thus far, "there has been a seamless transition," said Schuldt in response to questions.

If all goes well this year, the next step in the process will be to move for state legislation to make it a permanent merger in 2016.

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