While City of Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR) Chief Barbara Tripp wrestles with ways to improve fire rescue response times in New Tampa, our area has received its first-ever “mini-heavy” rescue (MHR) truck.
The MHR truck, which is similar to the heavy rescue fire rescue trucks but is smaller and designed for technical rescues, will run out of TFR Fire Station No. 21, the Cross Creek Blvd. station closest to Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd.
The new truck, part of the department’s special operations division, will work in concert with the larger fire rescue trucks and will be manned by Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR) firefighters who are trained in urban search and rescue.
“That apparatus basically has more technical tools to assist with major incidents, such as a major vehicle accident that people need to be extricated from,” says TFR spokesperson Vivian Shedd. “Think of it as a giant tool box, with lots of things you don’t normally use. But, when you need it, you are glad you have it because it makes the rescue go that much faster.”
The truck is equipped with the Jaws of Life, cutters and spreaders “and other tools for rope rescues and things of that nature” that aren’t on every fire rescue truck, Shedd adds.
Because the truck is for specialty rescues that don’t happen as often, it doesn’t specifically address the recent reports about fire rescue times in New Tampa. However, it is an important addition for Station No. 21, considering that the area is heavily reliant on major traffic areas like I-75 and BBD that are prone to major accidents.
An accident requiring the life-saving services of an MHR truck would have to typically wait 15-20 minutes, or more (depending upon the time of day), for one to arrive from downtown Tampa.
“This is why we saw the need and brought it over to New Tampa,” Shedd says. “People in those kind of accidents don’t have time to wait.”
Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera, who represents North and New Tampa in District 7, has been an advocate for more help at New Tampa’s four fire stations, and says the MHR truck is a great addition.
“This vehicle came after a lot of lobbying from me and our friends in Tampa Firefighters Local 754,” Viera says. “I appreciate them and so does New Tampa. Fire Rescue response times are a huge issue for me for New Tampa. This investment addresses this. We got this vehicle funded this past year and I got another $1,000,000 in the budget for response times this year.”
Viera says he hopes to see even more assistance in the future to help reduce rescue times in New Tampa, which rank among the worst in Tampa. Shedd says that the problem is high on Chief Tripp’s to-do list.
“One thing our fire chief has stressed that is very important to her are response times,” Shedd says. “She is deeply committed to making sure that we are able to respond to any emergency as quickly as possible…there is still more to be done, and we are looking into additional resources (to improve those times.)”