Joe Greco of the Tampa Firefighters Local 754 said that improving TFR Station No. 13 near Busch Gardens should take precedence over improving poor emergency response times in New Tampa.

Everyone seems to agree that the City of Tampa doesn’t have enough fire rescue stations, and it is now time for city officials to figure out a solution for the entire city, but especially in New Tampa.

That was the message at the Tampa City Council meeting last month, from council member Luis Viera — who represents New Tampa in District 7, a district which may be the area most at need — proposing that the city come up with a citywide master plan for all public safety needs, including police, fire rescue and EMS.

“We have a master plan for Parks & Recreation, which I’m in favor of, but we should also do it for public safety, given the many deficits we face,” Viera said at the Council meeting.

Much of the debate centered around a report by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) that showed a number of weaknesses in Tampa’s fire rescue network.

Although it was only touched on briefly, Viera expressed concern about one troubling statistic revealed in the report — four of the six City of Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR) stations with the slowest response times are located in New Tampa.

New Tampa is home to four of TFR’s 23 stations: TFR Station No. 20 (located on Bruce D. Downs Blvd. in Tampa Palms), Nos. 21 and 22 (located off Cross Creek Blvd.), and No. 23, which opened in 2019 on Trout Creek Ln., just south of County Line Rd.

Another TFR station is planned for the K-Bar Ranch area, which will have nearly 2,000 homes when it is built out.

According to the IAFF report, the first arriving fire rescue apparatus should be on the scene within four minutes of travel for 90% of incidents that require an emergency response.

From June 1, 2017, to May 31, 2019, New Tampa’s TFR stations 20 and 21 were the two slowest, at 10 minutes of response time each, and Nos. 22 and 23 tied for the third slowest response times at 8 minutes each.

The New Tampa response times may have more to do with physical distance from the stations and our area’s congested roads, however, as all four stations rank near the bottom of all TFR stations when it comes to the number of emergencies responded to by each of their rescue, engine units and truck companies.

Viera visited all four stations on Thanksgiving Day to discuss possible solutions. “The New Tampa fire rescue people told me that K-Bar Ranch is the biggest challenge,” he says.

Even so, Fire Station 13, which also is in Viera’s district and is located at 2713 E. Annie St. near Busch Gardens, was a far greater concern at the Nov. 18 City Council meeting. It is the busiest station in Tampa by far, according to Firehouse Magazine, and the 20th busiest in the country.

Viera called it a “very very challenging station” and called for immediate relief for the station in the form of a new engine or a new facility.

Joe Greco, Tampa Firefighters Local 754 president, said that the money that was included in the latest budget to build another station in New Tampa should instead be directed to address Station 13’s needs.

“Twenty five percent of all calls for service in the city of Tampa are in Station 13’s first alarm territory,” Greco said. Greco added that nearby TFR Station Nos. 7, 11 and 18 answer as many calls in Station 13’s area as Station 13 does, due to the high volume.

The City Council will come back in January with a plan of action to bring Station No. 13 immediate relief, and passed Viera’s motion for a workshop to tackle the city’s public safety master plan in March.

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