Nelson pushes back criticism of Apopka firefighters’ “teams”

By Reggie Connell, Editor-in-Chief

In a recent interview with The voice of Apopka, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson discussed a range of topics, but none are stronger than the Apopka Fire Department. Over the past few weeks, starting in budget workshops, in several published articles, and in discussions on local social media pages, debates have taken place – primarily over how many firefighters should be on a fire apparatus during a fire call.

Nelson rejected many assertions.

Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson

“I think some things have been overlooked,” Nelson said. “I think the 180 calls we have [the AFD] made on behalf of Orange County [Fire Rescue] and they did zero for us. So when you talk about the fire department, we have more than managed our own. “

Nelson refers to a statistic referenced by AFD Chief Sean Wylam during the mileage rate hearing in which AFD assisted Orange County firefighters with fire calls, but never needed OCFR help for any.

“We manage our call volume,” Wylam said. “We are able to respond. We have a contract with the county. We also have a contract in place where we help them when they call us. We have responded 175-190 times over the past two years to help Orange County. How many times have we asked them to help us? Zero. We manage our call volume and more.

Nelson also defended a 17-year tradition at AFD – the team.

“We’re talking about four people in a truck versus two, but you don’t bring up the team, that’s the only reason there’s a team….” They find out what the problems are, so when the truck goes firefighters are coming, you now have four. It’s not just two… and for 17 years, it has been working… under [Apopka Fire Chiefs] Richard Anderson, under Lee Bronson, under Chuck Carnesale. And now under Chef [Sean] Wylam, the squad system worked. No one ever complained. Not once. Anybody. And 17 years later people mean we need to put more people in the fire truck. So why is this?

According to Nelson, the catalyst for this discussion is the new Apopka firefighters union.

“The union is looking for something to fight for, and these are the three men on a truck,” he said. “They have a union. It’s awesome. I don’t have a problem with them, but obviously they didn’t come to us with a contract because they know they are doing better [salaries] than anyone else in the county. Our increases are better than anyone in the county. Our pensions are better than anyone in the county, so what can they discuss? Well, they got to be arguing about something and it’s the three guys in a truck. It’s interesting how they select things. I won’t say that’s not correct, but they only give you a quarter of the truth.

He also referred to Apopka’s vast square mileage as another reason the team method works better.

“We have the squad system that works because we are more dispersed than the other municipalities. We can get that squad truck up there faster to analyze the situation… and when the fire truck comes in, you now have four people.

According to a survey conducted by The voice of Apopka of the fire departments in Lake, Orange and Seminole counties, Apopka is the second largest municipality in Orange County in terms of square miles with 35.2 square miles. Orlando is the largest with 113.7 square miles.

According to Nelson, in a city so large, more stations would be a better idea than more firefighters on the engines.

“So, are we putting three on the fire truck, or do we at some point consider adding fire station # 7?” Now we come out of a station at the Kelly Park intersection. For me, I would prefer to have another fire station, because you come from there rather than fire station # 6. Right there – a mile away versus 3-4 miles. It makes more sense to me.

He also believes that the number of firefighters AFD has recruited over the years has adequately handled each fire call – taking 2020 as an example.

“We had 31 fires last year,” he said. “That’s it. So how do you say there aren’t enough people there? We have 107 firefighters… so only one in three was even on a fire call that year. is just interesting how this thing turned out.

Nelson maintains that the two-person crews on fire trucks with a two-person crew are what gave Apopka its ISO-1 rating.

“It’s not as if we aren’t all safety-focused,” he said. “We were the first ISO-1 city in central Florida. There is nothing more critical than having an ISO-1 rating. Do you know how many accidents we had because we only have two on the truck? Zero.”

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