The Lutz Volunteer Fire Department as residents know it will soon to be a thing of the past.
The Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously today, Nov. 15, to adopt a transition plan that changes the role of volunteer firefighters and eliminates their ability to man stations autonomously.
The plan creates a Reserve Responder Program that will utilize current and incoming volunteers. It also adds 78 new career firefighting positions to the county’s roster. Those positions will be funded out of a $5.24 million budget request that was also approved today. The money will be “drawn down” from that multi-million-dollar pool as positions are filled.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers presented the plan to the commission today and outlined the benefits of having career firefighters and volunteers work together.
“It’s really a pretty significant change,” Rogers said. “The volunteers were pretty much autonomous. We’re trying to integrate the volunteers into that (fire rescue’s) team.”
Victor Crist was one of the only commissioners to ask questions about the plan, specifically the new reserve program. As a former volunteer firefighter himself, Crist raised concerns about the availability of volunteer positions for people who don’t want careers in the field. He also questioned how volunteers would be integrated into the firefighting team.
“Our goal is for them to interact and be part of that crew,” Rogers responded to Crist’s question. “The reserves will be assigned to a career officer in that station. That officer would then evaluate that reserve just like he does the career members of his crew.”
As for volunteers who simply want to lend a hand without using the reserve program to jumpstart a career, Rogers said they will be welcomed.
“We want anyone that wants to assist with what we do to be able to,” Rogers said.
The plan goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. In addition to the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department, it also pertains to:
- North Brandon
- Dover-Turkey Creek
According to the county, the reserve program is meant to have these goals:
- Ensure greater accountability for volunteer personnel
- Improve safety through increased staffing on core units
- Build a pool of eligible candidates that will allow for rapid recruitment as part of succession planning
- Maintain a minimum of 120 Active Reservists
Existing nonprofit volunteer fire department organizations will be asked to serve in a supporting role under the plan. Much like the Friends of the Library or the Friends of the Parks, they will be asked to fundraise and provide support for stations throughout the county.
What do you think about the plan? Share your thoughts in the comments section.