Local fire departments will assist each other

By Maria Chandler, Okeechobee News

The City of Okeechobee Fire Department and Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue have entered into an interlocal agreement for automatic mutual aid.

The interlocal agreement was adopted by the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners and the Okeechobee City Council.

It was officially implemented Monday, said Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue Chief Nick Hopkins.

City of Okeechobee Fire Department Chief Keith Tomey said two or three years ago the state adopted a law under State Statute 633 that there is to be two firefighters outside and two firefighters inside a burning structure. The city fire department only has three firefighters per shift but must comply with this law.

In order to comply with the law, Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue will respond along with the city fire department to all structure fires or fire alarm calls received in the city.

The city fire department will respond to structure fires and fire alarm calls within two miles outside the city limits, said Chief Hopkins.

Chief Tomey said this law only comes into play if the call is not a life-threatening situation. For example, if there is someone inside a burning building the crew to arrive first will immediately enter the building to rescue the person instead of waiting for the other firefighters to arrive.

The city and county fire department both operate under three, 24-hour shifts.

The city has 11 paid firefighters along with volunteers. The county has 27 paid firefighters and 26 volunteers, including the Fort Drum station.