TAMPA, Fla. — April Cobb remembers the frantic phone call she got from her two young sons last spring.
“It was chaotic,” Cobb remembered.
The Hillsborough County Public School teacher had just gotten to work. The two boys were at home e-learning with Cobb’s uncle.
When she answered the phone, one of her sons — his voice full of emotion — told her that her uncle had suddenly stopped breathing and passed out.
“So I immediately told them to call 911, and they did,” Cobb said.
She said the two boys were somehow able to stay calm as a dispatcher gave them instructions on what to do until firefighters and paramedics arrived.
But Cobb said the response from first responders was slow. In fact, she said she was able to make the roughly 15-18 minute drive back to her Terrace Park home before they even showed up.
“So I knew then that it was a problem,” she said.
Her North Tampa neighborhood is protected by Tampa Fire Rescue's Station 13. As ABC Action News has reported in the past, the station near USF and Busch Gardens covers a big area and has an even bigger call volume. In fact, its call volume is the biggest in the City of Tampa and one of the biggest in the entire nation.
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“They are doing the best they can with what they have,” Cobb said. “Unfortunately, the budget is the issue.”
City Councilman Luis Viera finally has good news.
Tuesday night, the city passed a budget that he said should help remedy the long-standing issue that he’s pointed out repeatedly.
“It's a crisis,” Viera said Tuesday. “It’s a crisis not only for the men and women who work there but for the everyday working families that depend on their important first responder services.”
The city budget allots roughly $5 million to improve fire protection in New and North Tampa. A roughly $3.4 million portion of that funding will help create and staff a new Station 25, which will be set up at a former station on West Waters Avenue, just a few miles west of the busy Station 13.
“Every single second counts when you’re going to save somebody’s life,” he said.
That’s a maxim Cobb knows firsthand after the scary spring morning. Her uncle survived the sudden medical episode, and she hopes the improvements will give others a better fighting chance too.
Viera said the new fire station should be established in a year and a half or less.
Additionally, he says the budget also funds building upgrades to Station 21 in New Tampa and a heavy-duty rescue vehicle for that station. It also sets aside $880,000 “to begin on Fire Station 24,” which will service New Tampa.