Immokalee fire chief hopes growing community will fund the department
What does it mean when a fire department does not have enough firefighters to cover every shift? Earlier this week, WINK News reported the Immokalee fire department had to sell its only ladder truck to make ends meet. Eight firefighters on duty in Immokalee do the work of 15, rolling out and responding to an average of 12 emergencies a day.
Fire Chief Michael Choate blames the shortage at Immokalee Fire Control District directly on lack of funding. But he said he’s hopeful continued growth in Immokalee and Ave Maria will boost tax revenue and allow the fire district to hire more firefighters and purchase new equipment.
“What are the positive aspects about future revenue streams is the fact that our Ave Maria community that we protect is building anywhere from 150 to 200 homes a year,” Choate said. “That will be rolling onto a tax roll with some commercial growth out there as well, and Immokalee community is building new homes as well.”
Calls range from the typical accidents and medical emergencies to fires.
“Since we only have one station, we go out on every call in Immokalee,” Firefighter Andre Beaudette said. “And it gets pretty busy, so we’re always moving.”
In 2018, Immokalee firefighters responded to an estimated 5,000 total calls.
“If we have a couple calls during the night, it’s hard to go and start your day in the morning,” Beaudette said. “And I’ve been trying to get through that day if you barely got any sleep the night before.”
This only makes it hard for leadership at the fire district in Immokalee.
“It’s challenging sometimes to have enough personnel on a scene that requires multiple people and multiple units,” Choate said.