TAMPA, Fla. - City leaders will hear a new plan that would push for more fire stations in growing parts of Tampa and delegate some of that workload from one fire station that has had to step in to make up for the lack of public safety infrastructure.
In downtown Tampa, construction and cranes are a common sight, but, according to city leaders, one glaring area that is not being built are critical safety services – like new fire stations. Plus, firefighters and city officials are also concerned about North Tampa and New Tampa, where it has been building up for years, but no new fire stations have gone in.
Meanwhile, Tampa Fire Station 13 near Busch Gardens has been called on time and again to carry the extra workload. It’s now one of the busiest fire stations in the city and in the country.
In November, Tampa city councilman Luis Viera said it’s an issue that needs immediate attention and asked the city to come up with a master plan for public safety.
"State 13 responded to 11,000 calls for services," Viera said at the time. "That’s one out of 23 stations – but one in seven calls citywide came from the range of Station 13."
Studies show response times are slower than firefighters would like. They have to travel miles to get to thousands of residents.
"We build off Morris Bridge Road, K-Bar Ranch, Grand Hampton, and we don’t provide fire stations for those communities," says Viera. "That’s an abomination."
On Thursday, Tampa City Council will review that Public Safety Master Plan to get a better idea of the vulnerabilities in the city’s layout and what can be done to alleviate the pressure on overburdened stations. It will be presented by Interim Fire Chief Barbara Tripp.
Long-term, the plan calls for two new fire stations in Channelside and North Tampa or New Tampa. More immediately, a temporary station will go up in North Tampa and Station 13 would get two additional firefighters and an engine.
However, adding new stations will cost hundreds of millions, and the city would have to figure out how to pay for it. Those in support of the plan said it’s going to cut response times and increase the likelihood that lives will be saved.
"If anybody drives through downtown, they realize all the cranes in the sky and how much that area has grown," said Andrew Carter, vice president of Firefighters Union Local 754. "Along with that growth should come the infrastructure for fire and police."