Commissioner Betsy VanderLey discussed how soon residents can expect more fire stations in their community.
A temporary fire station could be opening in Horizon West as early as this fall, with two permanent stations scheduled to be built in the coming years.
“We found a location to be able to prop up a temporary fire station in Horizon West while we build two permanent fire stations overtime,” Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey said. “So, we’ll immediately alleviate the pressure and get a fire station for these folks and then get more permanent locations as we go on.”
VanderLey said the target date to open the temporary fire station is Oct. 1.
Orange County Fire Chief Otto Drozd discussed the fire stations planned for Horizon West in an email sent to VanderLey Sept. 5. Stations planned for the area are temporary station 44 and permanent stations 48 and 49.
“Temporary Station 44 will be located on the site of Orlando Health’s new, stand-alone emergency room off of Porter Road and Avalon (Road),” Drozd wrote.
He later wrote: “Horizon West is slated for two additional stations — station 48 and 49. Both (are) planned for 2025 or beyond.”
Drozd also said because of the rapid growth of Horizon West, he expects the timelines for stations 48 and 49 could “be moved up well in advance of what has been planned.” In addition to temporary station 44 and stations 48 and 49, an existing temporary station will become permanent station.
“Station 32 — which has been in a temporary location for several years — will become a permanent station,” Drozd wrote. “We will be utilizing the new prototype fire station design and the new location will be north of the current location on Hartzog Road. This (station) will cover the south side of Horizon West. Construction is estimated to begin December/ January of 2018-2019.”
The need for more fire stations in Horizon West was brought to VanderLey’s attention during a town hall meeting last year. Horizon West residents made her aware they were having a difficult time getting homeowners insurance because of the proximity of fire stations.
“I immediately initiated a conversation with our fire chief to find out ... what the current situation (at the time) was and how quickly we can move to rectify them,” VanderLey said, adding that money for new fire stations had already been budgeted. “The issue was manning the fire station — so the personnel cost — that was not accounted for anywhere.”
VanderLey added the personnel issues were handled by moving personnel from an existing fire station that received few calls and moving those individuals to man temporary station 44.
The impact of the new fire stations will be quicker response times and lower rates for homeowners insurance, even though the first new station expected to go up soon is only temporary, VanderLey said. She added the temporary station will be similar to a“housing trailer.”
“For the purposes of the residents in that area, it will not matter to them — in terms of their home owners insurance and in terms of our performance and response times — whether (fire services) are coming to them (residents) out of a house trailer or coming to them out of a bricks-and-sticks fire station,” VanderLey said. “They’re going to see the same level of service, and it wouldn’t matter to the insurance company. I would encourage the residents, as soon as this fire station is in place, to call your homeowners insurance and see if you can get a better rate now that you have fire services a whole lot closer to your property. And they should see a huge decrease in their homeowners insurance ... as a result of this fire station.”
Orange County Fire Rescue Public Information Officer Carrie Proudfit said the average response time for fire/rescue service — from the time the call is received to the on-scene time — in Orange County during Fiscal Year 2017-2018 was 7 minutes, 19 seconds.
“The Lake Hickory Nut area was a particular community in Horizon West that was evaluated after a constituent concern,” Proudfit said. “The response time in that area was measured at an average of 12 (minutes) 55 (seconds). Depending on whether it was an EMS (Emergency Medical Service) or fire call, the benchmark for that area should be nine minutes or nine (minutes) 20 (seconds) ... which is set/determined by the population density of the particular community.”
Proudfit added the county will be hiring personnel once the permanent stations are built, and the projected cost for the addition personnel is $2.6 million annually.
“The costs associated with standing up temporary Fire Station 44 includes costs associated with the manufactured temporary fire station — $100,000,” Proudfit said. “In addition, the build-out cost associated with standing up this station is approximately $300,000.”