SEBRING — In the midst of staying prepared for the novel coronavirus pandemic, Highlands County Fire Rescue has gotten another station fully staffed.
Sun ‘N Lake Station 7 in Sebring now has paid fire staff on all shifts.
Starting last Friday, the lieutenant and firefighter on shift were joined by a credentialing firefighter to round out the shift that included two Emergency Medical Services personnel already working at station 7.
Also that same day, Battalion Chief 1 moved into quarters at Station 7, Battalion Chief 2 moved into Lake Placid Station 36 downtown, and the EMS 3 captain took quarters at DeSoto City Station 19.
Fire Rescue Chief Marc Bashoor said the new people at Sun ‘N Lake aren’t actually “new,” as such. Some have served with the county for years, including one hire from the volunteer ranks, while others came aboard as much as 15 months ago.
Bashoor pointed out that without the Highlands County Commission enactment of the countywide fire assessment in 2018, he wouldn’t have had the money to hire in full-time personnel and assign them as needed throughout the county.
When commissioners first discussed the assessment, one selling point came from the potential of having full-time crews at three or four stations that sit on or near U.S. 27, for ease of movement and ready access to a corridor that sees a majority of the county’s deadly wrecks.
Another advantage came from having a method of raising funds needed to upgrade or build new fire stations to accommodate the new people and apparatus necessary for more rapid response.
Sun ‘N Lake Station 7 was one of the newly-built stations, squeezed in between Sun ‘N Lake Boulevard and a public access route to the AdventHealth Sebring Emergency Room parking lot.
Other stations located on or near U.S. 27 include Highlands Lakes Station 1 — planned for replacement with a new building — DeSoto City Station 19 and Lake Placid Station 36, which is actually downtown in what has been described as a logistically-cramped spot between Main Avenue and Devane Park.
The county has a site just off Dal Hall Boulevard, a block from the highway, with budget and construction plans to build a new station there in the near future.
Meanwhile, Bashoor and Deputy Chief of Operations Danny Spillman have been conducting interviews for paramedic captain — via Skype to maintain social distancing.