KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. -- Residents Carol Baker and her 13-year-old son, Tanner, know first-hand the safety provided by the town's volunteer fire department.
"I personally had a fire last year out behind my house and the volunteer firefighters were right there the whole time," Carol Baker said.
The Keystone Heights Volunteer Fire Department, or KHVFD, has been operating in the town since 1925.
Its building houses both its equipment and that belonging to Clay County Fire Rescue.
"We wish we could have altered it, rather than have a total new proposal come our way," said Jeff Miller, president of the Keystone Heights Volunteer Fire Department
Miller, the volunteer organization's president, is referring to this 2004 lease agreement between the department and the county.
Which envisioned renovations to the second floor of the building that would provide a living area for the county's career firefighters.
But Clay County Fire Rescue Chief Lorin Mock said in 2009, the county conducted an engineering analysis and found those renovations weren't a good fiscal decision.
And a few years later, a new option was put on the table by the county's new manager that would require the volunteers to work under the authority of the county.
"We were giving up way to much to sign the contract that we rejected," Miller said.
The termination means the KHVFD -- and its more than 40 firefighters -- will no longer be able to respond to emergency calls.
But Mock said that will not affect response times.
"While we valued that response and considered it an integral part of our service provision, the removal of that from us, while it would be minorly detrimental, is not a catastrophic thing to the provision of service," Mock said.
Though KHVFD disagrees, it says it will continue to work toward a resolution with the county. In the meantime, Clay County Fire Rescue says it will set up a new temporary station for its firefighters and equipment less than a mile away for the next few years until a brand-new facility can be built.
First Coast News