Editor’s Note: This is the 16th in a series of 24 articles published by The Apopka Voice in 2017 that were among the most noteworthy. We will post all of them from December 26th and December 31st. Then on Monday, January 1st we will poll our readers and let them decide which is Apopka’s biggest story of 2017.
Story #16: Two new temporary fire stations opening in December
The Apopka Fire Department is about to get faster, and more responsive thanks to an idea by its fire chief.
On December 3rd, two temporary fire stations will open at the new Florida Hospital (FHP) on Harmon Road, and at the Northwest Recreation Facility. It was Chuck Carnesale’s vision to open the stations simultaneously. He considers it a commitment to Apopka to make this bold move.
“Opening two new fire stations on the same day is historical for our department,” said Carnesale, the Chief of the AFD. “It shows how serious we are about public safety and getting to people quickly that need help.”
According to Carnesale, both sites will remain active until the permanent fire stations are completed.
“This will save us 6-8 minutes on response time from the Welch Road fire station,” he said. “We have the Station #5 firefighters and the trucks, so I wanted to take full advantage and use them now.”
The temporary station at the Northwest Recreation Facility will be staffed by seven firefighters per shift and will have a fire truck, ambulance and mini rescue squad on site. And although the actual Fire Station #5 building is projected for a February of 2018 opening, Carnesale didn’t want to wait.
“I wanted to get a two or three-month jump ahead of the real Station #5 opening. If we can get to someone in need or a house on fire within three minutes, why wouldn’t we start now?”
Opening two temporary fire stations to improve response times can be described as innovative or visionary, but the AFD’s usage of a hospital site might be distinctive in another way. For over 40 years the AFD and FHP have been partners in the community, but now with the completion of its new hospital on Harmon Road, that relationship is taking the next step.
The AFD is converting a 2,000 square foot construction trailer and additional space on the hospital property into a temporary fire station that will house nine firefighters (three at a time working 24-hour shifts), and a fire truck until Fire Station #6 is completed.
According to Carnesale, and research done by The Apopka Voice, this may well be the only fire station operating on a hospital property anywhere in the United States.
Carnesale is pleased with the partnership and the location – which is nearby to the permanent Fire Station #6 site.
“When the AFD first started with an ambulance service Florida Hospital was the hospital we transported our patients to. So with the larger facility and rapidly-growing community we have in this section of the city, we presented the idea of placing a fire station on the new campus, and they took us up on it.”
Tim Cook is equally pleased with his new tenants.
“To have our local first responders right on site creates a synergy that will be beneficial to each organization and most importantly our entire community,” said Cook, the senior vice president/administrator for Florida Hospital Apopka. “The closer the hospital team and fire and rescue teams work together, the greater the potential for constant improvement on how we respond together to people in need… and while proximity is not the only way to achieve that synergy it will greatly enhance it. We couldn’t be more positive about having fire and rescue right on campus.”
Carnesale also sees the synergy described by Cook.
“That gives them (FHP) faster fire protection, and it gives us quicker response times to three major roadways (the 429, 415 and the 451),” he said. “It can be challenging to get to accident scenes on those roads, but with a station at the hospital we will have quicker response times to those roads as well.”