Jacksonville, FL - More ambulances will soon be on the streets of Jacksonville, in an effort to ensure the fastest possible response times to emergencies across the city.
Under the current budget for the City of Jacksonville, four additional Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department rescue units- or ambulances- were funded. WOKV has confirmed JFRD plans to get these units in service next month, and they’re hope to grow the force even more in the future.
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One of the rescue units will be attached to the new Fire Station 61 off Collins and Old Middleburg in Oakleaf, to address what JFRD Division Chief of Rescue David Castleman calls a “gaping area” that’s not currently directly served. That unit will initially locate in another station, then in a few months they will move to a temporary portable station that’s being built, until the permanent station is up and running.
Three more rescue units will be added to existing fire stations- Station 44 on Western Way in Baymeadows, Station 17 on Huron Street in Woodstock, and Station 37 on Busch Drive on the Northside.
“The four units that we’re going to be putting in service are the ones that we’ve identified in the areas that have the greatest need for coverage,” Castleman says.
In Woodstock, as an example, Castleman says their existing units have been “taxed” responding to a recent spike of shootings. On the Northside, he says the area is so expansive, that they face challenges in getting response times where they want them to be.
“Response times and transport times are critical these days, with strokes, with heart attacks, with trauma. Getting people to definitive care i s extremely important,” he says.
In the zones that don’t currently have a rescue unit, available units from adjacent areas are dispatched when there is a call. Not only does this mean potentially longer response times, but it can create a domino effect, when a call comes in to a zone that has sent resources to another area.
“90% of our day-in-day-out call volume is calls for emergency medical services, so the rescues are imperative,” Castleman says.
These new ambulances will mean 53 active rescue units across Jacksonville. That leaves five fire stations without a rescue unit, according to Castleman. One of those- Station 48 on Blount Island- has a historically low call volume and is served well by the rescue unit at Station 40 on Heckscher Drive. Another- Station 9 on Main Street across from the Evergreen Cemetery- has a rescue unit a mile away at Station 15 off Pearl.
He says they hope to get the remaining three funded in the next budget year- Station 11 on Main Street north of Downtown, Station 12 around San Marco, and Station 41 in Neptune Beach.
“For us to be able to serve the community the way we should, and to meet the needs of all of the community who live throughout Jacksonville, there needs to be a rescue in every fire station,” Castleman says.
Moving forward, he says all new fire stations will stand up with a rescue unit.
The Mayor’s Office tells WOKV that there has already been discussion about this funding request, and these units will get “very strong consideration” in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
Castleman says they plan to bring the units online next month because that’s when a recruit class with around 30 personnel who will ultimately staff the units gets hired. Other JFRD personnel will staff the units while those recruits go through training, and then the existing personnel will be promoted. They’re also currently working through the channels of appropriating all the budgeted funds for outfitting the rescue units and personnel, through a bill that’s currently before the Jacksonville City Council.