HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is seeing a large increase in calls.
In 2019, they responded to 4,038 more calls than in 2018. That’s about 310 calls per day.
It’s all because of population growth across Hillsborough County.
“We’re one of the fastest growing counties in the state and the United States as well. As the folks keep coming in the more people that are in the county they’re using the services, said Hillsborough County Fire Chief Dennis Jones.
With more people needing help, there aren’t enough fire stations to meet the demand.
“Typically we would have an engine company running 2,000 to 2,500 calls. We have numerous engines now running well over 3,000 calls and rescue cars running a similar number of calls,” said Jones.
This increase is putting stress on personnel.
“What happens is more of the units are out of service running other calls at the time of the next call. Call stacking. And so we’re pulling units from the next available station, the next closet station so they’re running longer distances which increases response time,” he added.
The traffic and congestion are also affecting how quickly they can reach people.
“For fire and EMS calls, life safety and life in itself is very much affected by the time that it takes us to respond,” said Jones.
Officials looked at the call volume to see where most of the calls are coming from.
There’s a need for service in Riverview and Brandon with more people moving there.
“Anyone who’s been here for any time has recognized the growth along US 301 especially down in South County. All of those citizens are placing an additional demand so that’s where we’re focusing,” said Jones.
The only way to solve the problem is to add response units to lower the response time.
They've been working on a master plan for a few years.
“Our goal we want to get there quickly and deliver the service that the citizens expect. We definitely are impacted by the population growth. More people, more calls and ultimately the need is more fire stations more personnel,” said Jones.
Which is why Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is now building two new fire stations in Brandon and Riverview.
“In the last over a decade we’ve only added one fire station in the entire county so if you consider the drastic and dramatic population growth and only adding one fire station that is a challenge.” said Jones.
It’s a long process to get the extra station so they won’t be functional until the end of 2021.
Officials are working on some other solutions in the meantime.
“We’ve tried a lot of things. We implemented squad which are SUVs or trucks that can get there quickly and do some immediate triage of the patient and treatment,” said Jones.
“We’re also concerned with traffic congestion and we’re trying to do things, innovative things there like traffic light controlled to give us green lights to respond,” he added.