Glades County unveils full-time fire department

MOORE HAVEN — The Glades County Public Safety Department has come a long way in 2019. There have been discussions for years about how to do this, but on Wednesday, Nov. 6, the county was able to institute a full-time, fully staffed department, Emergency Management Director Angela Colegrove announced last week.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of GCPS
The Glades County Public Safety Department’s new full-time fire rescue team is made up of (from left) Kyle Mann, Elizabeth DeBree, Anthony Martinez, Angel Cabrera, Jason Snyder and Scotty Heflin.

Glades County Fire Rescue began 24-hour staffing of a fire engine based out of the Glades County Emergency Operations Center in Moore Haven. The newly dubbed “Engine 12” will be staffed with two full-time Florida Certified Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technicians. (They used to call the team “Fire One.”)

In the coming weeks, Ms. Colegrove said, fire crews will be traveling throughout Glades County to familiarize themselves with each community. Crews will also be visiting local businesses to conduct pre-incident fire planning to assist responding units with mitigating fires and other incidents that may arise.

Glades County Fire Rescue will continue to operate as a combination department, which means full-time crews will continue to work and train with the current squads of volunteer firefighters stationed throughout Glades County, Ms. Colegrove explained.

Glades County residents can expect to see the full-time staff at each of the county’s five Volunteer Fire Department stations on a weekly rotating schedule, she said. They will be helping the county’s volunteers with apparatus, equipment, and building maintenance while providing coverage for emergency calls.

Newly promoted County Manager Bob Jones, who has been the public safety director for 24 years and deputy Glades County administrator for around 10 years, says this is a huge accomplishment for the rural county whose population centers are widely spread out.

The Glades County Fire Department never before has had a full-time staff of more than two firefighters. “No,” Mr. Jones said, agreeing that this is a huge accomplishment. “We’ve had two people for about two or three years as 40-hour (employees), just working 8-to-5 Monday through Friday,” he said.

Then the county commissioners budgeted for additional hours in fiscal 2020, which began Oct. 1. “So we hired another four additional firemen, and they went through a two-week orientation, and then went to 24-hour shifts starting Nov. 6. They will be rotating throughout the county until about 5 in the afternoon, when they will come back to Moore Haven,” where the county has accommodations to house them, he said.

Two of the new firefighters live in Broward County, one lives in Lee County, one lives in Highlands, and one is based in Glades, he said. This will allow the county to concentrate on a new plan to serve the far western reaches of Glades better, with a new fire station.

“We’re trying to get the legislature to appropriate again the money this year to construct it. And we have had dialogue with Hendry County. We’re going into a joint effort between Glades and Hendry county to not only construct, if we get the funding from the state, but if it does come, then we are going to have a joint station together. Glades and Hendry counties both will house fire and EMS, one unit per each county, in that same building. We’re looking right on the county line, (State Road) 29, in that area,” Mr. Jones said. All the details have not been worked out yet, “but that’s the gist of what we’re going to do.”

It would be for a brand-new station, “and it would reduce costs for both counties, as far as the construction and utilities, and they’d be there to back each other up, especially on the far side (of Glades),” he said.

Right now there are volunteer stations in Buckhead Ridge and Lakeport (East District) that can house firefighters; the main public safety complex/Emergency Operating Center in Moore Haven (Central District); and structures in Muse and Ortona (West District) that can house equipment but not personnel.

Glades County is part of the statewide Florida Fire Chiefs Response Team that can be activated in the event of an emergency. Previously, Glades had two Firefighter II’s employed Monday through Friday who responded to calls within the county, helped maintain equipment and buildings and conducted required testing.

The county is still looking for volunteers, however, to join. For further information, contact your local volunteer fire department, or Glades Public Safetyat 863-946-0566.

Mass alert system in place
The department also announced that Glades County now has a Mass Alert Notification System. This free system will allow all citizens to sign up either via text, phone or email to receive emergency notifications about events that could affect them. These could include weather advisories, media releases, escaped prisoner notifications and road closure alerts.

To sign up, go online to alertgladescounty.org. All county employees and volunteers need to sign up for county updates.

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