MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade’s fireboats are still docked, almost three weeks after a Fourth of July boating crash that left four people dead and many wondering why the vessels with advanced life saving capabilities were out of service.
But beginning Monday, July 28th, Fire Chief Dave Downey says an alternative plan will be in place.
“Currently, the best option we have is to tender the hard-hull. It requires less staffing, less certifications.”
According to a memo obtained by CBS4 News dated July 23, the Operations Plan sent by Assistant Fire Chief Arthur L. Holmes Jr., is meant to “provide guidance and a framework of how we will tender/cross-staff and operate a hard hull boat.”
The hard hull boat called “Marine 39” will be “tendered” by Ladder 39 (L-39) and docked at PortMiami, according to the operations plan.
A minimum of two “hard-hull” certified personnel must be on staff within the Ladder 39 crew, but “personnel will not be moved nor hired for overtime to fulfill the above staffing requirements unless pre-approved,” according to the plan.
If Ladder 39 is unable to staff the boat, then they will contact the Fire Alarm Office Chief and Battalion 5 to let them know they “are not hard –hull capable.”
The plan also defines the “mission” of Ladder 39 and Marine 39.
“The Primary mission of Ladder 39 is as an Advanced Life Support (ALS) suppression unit providing service to PortMiami. The Secondary mission is to add a rescue boat to provide rescue service as requested through 911. The capabilities of Marine 39 include: providing search and rescue, emergency medical service, and dive rescue capabilities.”
While it’s not an actual fireboat, Chief Downey said the hard hull boat is equipped to save lives.
“This boat is quick to deliver advanced life support,” Downey said. “It’s staffed with paramedics. It has the capability to do night searches with forward looking infrared technology.”
The chief didn’t call this a compromise with the fire union, but said he notified the union of the plan on Monday.
By Thursday, union president Al Cruz responded in a two-page letter, which said, in part, “having a tendered unit will undoubtedly strain the resources (at the port) and will lead to a situation where we are unavailable for a critical call.”
The fire department memo states whenever Marine 39 is dispatched, another unit will be immediately moved to the port.
“We are not risking anybody’s life. We will move a unit up. Those units will be an advanced life support boat,” Chief Downey said.
The union letter goes on to say, “through some creative staffing and some resolve, our waterways can be made safer.”
The chief agrees that is the ultimate goal.
“We currently have resources, boats, and we have trained personnel,” Downey said. “I think it’s the best thing for the community to utilize these resources the best way we can. This is not the end solution, but this is a measure we can take to provide safety to our community.”
The union’s Executive Board will meet Monday to further discuss the issue.
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