by Sha'de Ray - Thu, May 4th 2023

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. -- Paid full-time firefighters could be coming to two fire stations in Escambia County for round the clock coverage.

The additional crews could relieve the volunteer fire stations and help their communities in Beulah and Molino.

Currently, Public Safety Director Eric Gilmore says those fire stations are volunteer based.

He says if money is approved, there will be one officer and three firefighters on three shifts at those stations.

"They'll be full time paid firefighters," he said. "So we'll have firefighters at those station around the clock 24/7, backed up with volunteers running out of station as well. So it'll be what we call a combination department."

Residents in Beulah didn't want to go on camera, but they say they would feel safer to have more firefighters in their area.

Gilmore says if approved, this could help reduce response times.

He adds this could also help improve their ISO ratings at these fire stations, which is based on response times, equipment and water supply.

An insurance agent says the lower the ISO rate means cheaper insurance rates.

"They will get more credit for having 12-hour or 24-hour service during those peak times," said Mary Jordan of Gulf Coast Insurance. "What's gonna happen conversely is that insurance rates will lower in that area for that ISO piece. Or they will have more options because some carriers will not cover those particular pockets that are listed as an ISO 10 or what would be considered an ISO 4x."

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Bergosh says budgets will be reviewed in September. If passed, commissioner Bergosh says it will be funded through a fire services tax.

But funding could be supplemented from revenue from the new housing developments in Beulah.

"Because we've had such incredible growth, because we had such an explosion with housing and huge development," he said, "that additional revenue could help assist us in absorbing this if the board chooses to move forward with this."

Gilmore says if the budget is approved, they would have to hire more staff or train cadets. He says that could take 12-18 months.