By Chief Robert DiLallo
You have likely read in the news that the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District approved a resolution to move forward on a ballot question that addresses fairly sharing the costs of emergency fire, rescue, and other services among property owners in the District. This simplified fire assessment approach works to achieve the goal of making the assessment fairer to all property owners of the District and has been tested and approved by Florida’s Supreme Court in other jurisdictions. The ballot question will be on the primary election voting ballot, which takes place on August 18, 2020.
Our goal is to ensure that every eligible voter casts their vote in August after being informed with the facts. To this end, we have created a page on our website (www.lehighfd.com) that contains the resolution documents in their entirety for review. An interactive comparison feature allows property owners to see what their new simplified fire assessment will be and show that approximately 11/12 homes will see a decrease.
Our fire district has experienced a significant growth in population over the last decade and is now the fastest-growing community in Lee County. Since the recession in 2009, the District has continued to provide fire prevention and suppression, Advanced Life Support Emergency Medical Services (ALS/EMS), and ambulance transport services with the same five (5) fire stations. During this same timeframe, the District has experienced over a 46% increase in call volume.
The combination of a higher population and higher call volume is requiring the District to build and staff a much-needed sixth fire station in the northwest part of Lehigh Acres. The addition of the new station will improve our current response times to the residential parcels in this region of the District.
Fast-moving brush fires pose a significant danger to the residents of Lehigh Acres. While we do collaborate with the Division of Forestry, our primary responsibility as your fire suppression provider is ensuring we can respond quickly to a fire and attack it with the amount of staff needed to prevent its spread. A prolonged response due to fire station distances on brush fires in our wildland/urban interface areas increases the likelihood of fire spread and property damage or even loss of life. It can also place firefighters at risk as they attempt to extinguish fires with limited staffing while waiting for mutual aid assistance. Faster response times will reduce the loss of property that is often associated with a quickly spreading wildfire.
The District has already acquired the necessary property for the sixth fire station and is currently in the development order and permitting stage. We have also sought state funding through an appropriations bill from the Florida Legislature to assist with the cost of the building and have been planning and preparing for this fire station for three years in anticipation of acquiring adequate funding.
If approved by Lehigh voters during the August Primary election, the replacement simplified fire assessment methodology will raise the additional funding necessary to meet the level of service set by industry standards, other agencies, and this community. I encourage you to check out the facts of the referendum by visiting our website, www.lehighfd.com, and I hope that you will take the time to vote in the August election.
By law, all registered voters in the Lehigh Acres Fire Control District may vote; there is no requirement to be a property owner to vote on this ballot question. Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle is encouraging voters to “vote by mail” for the August 18 primary election.
Please visit our website at www.lehighfd.com, to read more about Simplified Fire. If you have any questions, I encourage you to reach out to me or a member of my team.