A fire station in the middle of Alligator Alley is at risk of being shut down.
Greater Naples Fire Rescue District’s Station 63 is right in the middle of Alligator Alley, and it’s in trouble of falling victim to the economic impacts brought on by the pandemic.
Without the station operating, there would be a 66-mile stretch with no first responders.
“A long, long road that just keeps going on forever,” Cory Miller said. “They’re just flying as fast as they can because it’s just a straight shot.”
Alligator Alley is notorious for serious crashes, a highway travelers use to get from coast to coast in the state.
“Medical emergencies at the rest stops, hikers that are stranded, motor vehicle accidents, cars submerged in canals,” said Chief Kingman Schuldt of Great Naples Fire Rescue District.
Florida Department of Transportation sent a letter to Schuldt about the bleak future of their station along the Alley.
“Quite frankly, it’s just not right. It’s not fair, and they’re putting us in a position to fund something that we should not be responsible for,” Schuldt said.
Since 2014, FDOT has reimbursed the fire district up to $1.4 million dollars to run Station 63.
FDOT says less toll revenue during the pandemic and an expensive paving project has left the department without the money to help.
Schuldt hopes to secure funds, so travelers have first responders they can count on. The state helps fund station 63 because there is no tax base in that area. Since around 13% of the incidents on Alligator Alley involve people living in Collier County, the chief says they shouldn’t have to take on that burden.
Schuldt says losing the fire station would mean a 45-minute response time to some areas Station 63 covers.
“That really limits our ability to help save lives,” Schuldt said. “It is just not acceptable that we are not going to see this funding, and that they are, in essence, putting people’s lives in jeopardy.”