PersonnelThe Lake Wales Fire Department has 27 professional fire fighters. Every firefighter is also certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and six firefighters are certified as Paramedics – an advanced level of certification.
Twenty-four firefighters work in shifts – 24 hours on, 48 hours off, which is a fire service standard. There are 8 firefighters assigned to each shift. Three department members typically work a “normal” work schedule: The Fire Chief, the Fire Marshall, and the Fire Prevention Specialist.
StationsOur Fire Department operates out of two stations. The main station (station 1) is located on Central Ave in front of City Hall at Sharp Street. This station opened in 2000 when the Fire Department moved from the previous headquarters in old City Hall, further east on Central, at Second Street. The Fire Department had been located at old City Hall since in opened in 1928.
In May 2005 the Fire Department opened Station 2 on Thompson Nursery Road, just west of US 27. As soon as funding is available, the City plans to construct a permanent fire station building for station 2 in the northern area of the City.
ServicesOur Fire Department answers over 2,700 calls per year. Of that number about 200 are fire calls. The remainder are medical calls, including vehicle accidents and other types of rescue calls. Vehicle accidents sometimes require the use of the department’s specialized equipment to extricate persons who are trapped in heavily damaged vehicles. All department personnel have received special training in this type of rescue as well as other rescue operations. The department’s average response time is between 4.5 to just over 5 minutes.
Paramedic ProgramWe live in a very large county. Lake Wales accounts for 14 square miles of the 2,010 square miles that make up Polk County. Our county is the fourth largest county in the state, and the ninth largest in population with over 561,000 residents.
Ambulance service is provided throughout the county by the county government. There are 29 ambulances with paramedics responding to over 75,000 events per year. The ambulances serving Lake Wales are not located in the city limits but are stationed east of town and west of town near the airport. For medical calls requiring an ambulance, our Lake Wales firefighters almost always arrive on the scene first.
Prior to March of last year, our Lake Wales firefighter/EMT’s provided basic life support at the scene of a medical emergency until the ambulance arrived. EMT’s are trained and licensed to provide basic life support, which includes patient assessments, taking vital signs, utilizing advanced airway devices to secure an airway, and operating an automatic external defibrillator to correct lethal heart arrhythmia during a cardiac arrest.
In March of 2008 our fire department started its advanced life support emergency service. Our department has 6 paramedics, with two assigned to each shift. Our paramedics are:
- Paul Byrd
- Lashon Johnson
- Roy Wilkinson
- Dean Copson
- Brian Draper
- Shad Smith
In addition to our Lake Wales Fire Department, several other fire departments such as Winter Haven, Lakeland, and Polk County have begun training their firefighter/emergency medical technicians as paramedics. This is a huge increase in the level of service provided at a fraction of the cost for additional ambulances and staff.
Paramedics are required to complete 16 weeks of EMT training prior to beginning the program. The training program includes one year of college, 470 hours on an ambulance, and 120 clinical hours in an emergency room, followed by a state exam. The tuition cost is $3,600 to attend the program.
As funding is available our department will be training additional paramedics. Congratulations to everyone involved in this progressive, life-saving program!
Note: Fire Chief Jerry Brown assisted with this article.