MIAMI (CBSMiami) –After sitting idle at the Port of Miami in 2012, Miami-Dade’s fire boats may soon be back in service. Late Wednesday afternoon, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said there is a tentative agreement to place the county’s fire boats back in the water and responding to calls.
The plan calls for the Miami-Dade fire boat, as well as the fire boat operated by the City of Miami, to be operated by a consortium of fire departments. In addition to Miami and Miami-Dade, the fire departments from Coral Gables, Miami Beach and possibly Key Biscayne would all contribute firefighters to staff the boats.
There would be two boats always in service. One would be located at the northern end of the county at Haulover Park, and the other near Port Miami. Under the plan, there could be times where the county fire boat could have Miami Beach or Coral Gables firefighters on board.
The plan was first reported by the Miami Herald’s Doug Hanks.
The idea for pooling staffs and resources came during a meeting of fire chiefs two weeks ago, Downey said.
“We have met,” he told CBS4’s Jim DeFede. “We have discussed conceptually among the fire chiefs what can happen.”
The details still need to be worked out. Before it could move forward, fire fighters from Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Key Biscayne would have to receive special training on how to operate the boat.
But Downey said union leaders said they believed the plan could possibly work.
Downey credited Mayor Carlos Gimenez for asking the fire chiefs to get together and come up with a solution. Gimenez had faced unrelenting criticism after a Fourth of July boating accident left four people dead and the county’s fire boats did nothing to help. At the time, in July, he claimed the only way to get the boats back in the water would be to extract concessions from the union.
Gimenez angrily said he did not have to come up with any other plans. But when his peevish comments were made public, the backlash was quick. A former firefighter and fire boat captain, whose son died during the July 4th weekend tragedy, announced plans to try and recall the mayor.
In the weeks that followed, Mayor Gimenez reconsidered his refusal to offer alternatives and tasked his fire chief with exploring new options. The various fire chiefs and their staffs will meet next week to nail down specifics, but Chief Downey said he hopes the county’s fire boat can be back in the water in a matter of weeks.
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