As Palm Coast's population grows, its calls for fire service are also growing. But calls for service aren't growing proportionally with the city's population growth. They're rising much faster, Fire Department officials told the Palm Coast City Council at a workshop on April 26.
"As people who are retiring move here, they consume our services at a larger rate and are more in need of fire protection and EMS."
— KYLE BERRYHILL, battalion chief
"The rate at which our citizens are consuming fire department services is growing," Battalion Chief Kyle Berryhill said. "A few years ago, it was about 10%; today, it's almost 14%. That means for every 1,000 new residents, we can expect 138 new calls."
Berryhill and Fire Chief Jerry Forte briefed the council about the department's status and plans.
The department is planning for the construction of at least two fire stations — mini-Station 20 in the Whiteview Parkway area, and Station 26 in the Seminole Woods area — and the replacement of Station 22, on Palm Coast Parkway at Clubhouse Drive. Once those are built, the county government's fire department will also shift some of its stations to better serve Bunnell and western Flagler County.
The Palm Coast Fire Department tries to meet a response time goal of seven minutes or less 85% of the time. Without the new Fire Station 26, Berryhill said, the Seminole Woods area is expected to have a 12-14-minute response time within several years.
"When we get past eight minutes to arrive on someone who needs CPR, there's virtually no chance of them having a successful outcome," Berryhill said.
Some of the department's stations were placed decades ago, and the population has shifted.
"We've got fire stations in places that were put there 50 years ago, that might have been ideal at the time," Forte said. "But we have to now look at where they are, and see if we're actually in the right place to get to the living rooms of the houses that need us the most, in the right amount of time."
The department is also looking at increasing staffing, and has been working with the county to include some county firefighters at several city stations so that apparatus can roll out with five firefighters for structure fires in the meantime.
"That gives us our five people, all the time, to go out to a call and handle an incipient fire at its smallest level, with the most people that we can muster in a very short period of time," Forte said.
The city is also trying to fully staff a ladder truck that could respond regionally, Forte said.
The city's new Station 26 is expected to open in November 2024.