The Lutz Volunteer Fire Department may be getting replaced Jan. 1, but volunteers are not.
Honestly, said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers.
“This is not a power grab,” Rogers said. “We are not getting rid of volunteers. We are changing their roles.”
To discuss this new supplemental role, a slew of public meetings are being held. A meeting in Lutz is slated for 6:30 p.m. tonight (Dec. 6) at the Lutz Community Center, 98 1st Ave. N.W.
Hillsborough County commissioners last month voted unanimously to replace the county’s half-dozen volunteer fire departments, including Lutz’s. The county is funding 78 new career firefighting positions through a $5.24 million budget request.
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Career firefighters are simply taking the lead, Rogers said. The county is creating a firefighter’s reserve program, which will allow career firefighters and volunteers to work together in emergency situations. No longer will volunteers have autonomous control.
A public meeting was held Monday in Brandon. Very few people showed up, which Rogers said tells him there is little controversy and that volunteers understand there is no “power grab.”
"We're trying to dispel such a rumor," he said.
According to the county’s transition plan, officials want to maintain 120 active reservists. Reservists must meet minimum requirements to take part.
During tomorrow's meeting, Rogers and other representatives from fire rescue will discuss such topics as:
- The changes they can expect with the county’s six volunteer fire stations
- How the county intents to keep the volunteer spirit alive
- The reserve responder program, which will operate with a volunteer force
- How residents can help the agency in its mission to keep Hillsborough safe
The move away from volunteer-run stations was spurred by a county Fire Rescue Performance Audit that showed “significant concerns" with the system.
“This review resulted in a determination that the existing model was neither viable nor viable in meeting the public safety response needs of the community,” it read.
Staff writer Sherri Lonon contributed to this report.