Naples fire chief wants to require shutter removal after hurricane season

Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt of Great Naples Fire Rescue District wants to implement new rules that ensure homeowners remove shutters after hurricane season to avoid other potential hazards.

“I can’t make the county develop an ordinance,” Schuldt said. “But I know in my mind it’s the right thing to do.”

One example involves plywood shutters, which if left for long periods of time boarded on a home could result in a potential fire hazard. This could also make it harder to escape a home if there are potential exits blocked by a shutter.

“The house right next-door to me was broken into a while back,” Shirley Meek said. “And the one across the street here was also broken in, so I feel a little insecure.”

Meek has shutters on her home’s windows even though storm season is over.

“For safety reasons because it just makes me feel more secure with them up,” Meek said.

After a house fire in Naples, Schuldt proposed having an ordinance require homeowners take shutter down once hurricane season ends.

“There were storm shutters around the outside of the building, and we had to use our power saws to gain access to force entry into the building,” Schuldt said. “And it did hamper our fire attack and extinguishing method.”

Fire Chief Jim Cunningham of North Collier Fire District does not support Schuldt’s proposed ordinance. However, Cunningham agrees Schuldt has targeted a safety concern.

“Putting in regulation doesn’t necessarily solve the problem,” Cunningham said. “Who is government to go around and tell people they can or can’t do something if they choose to? The key is educating them on the importance of why they shouldn’t.”

The continued use of shutters after a storm eventually leads to future hazards for people to exit a home, and it makes it hard for smoke and fire to escape.

“Also hinders firefighting efforts of being able to … get inside the building,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the fire district has extra crews on hand during hurricane season in order to remove shutters quicker and perform other rescue tasks more efficiently. The fire districts will work collectively to start a campaign toward reducing risks with storm shutters.

Meek said she understands the safety issue and just works around it.

“I make sure every room has a way of getting out,” Meek said.

Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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