Monroe County Fire Rescue received a $5.6 million Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant to staff five currently understaffed firehouses in the Florida Keys adequately. The grant will provide 24 new positions for four firefighters on duty per shift at all Monroe County firehouses, rather than three. 

The grant will be spread equally across three years to pay for additional firefighter’s salaries and benefits.Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi says Chief Steve Hudson has successfully completed the last task on the Callahan Plan, a plan implemented by retired Chief James Callahan to improve fire rescue operations over his 15 years of County service.

“This shows that Chief Hudson has his pedal to the metal moving Monroe County Fire Rescue forward to enhance fire rescue operations throughout the Florida Keys,” Gastesi said. “Having four firefighters at each station will decrease response times, adding a further level of safety for all of our residents and visitors.”

Monroe County firefighters follow a “two-in, two-out” policy mandating firefighters enter a burning building only when they can always maintain voice or visual contact with another firefighter. In addition, two firefighters must be outside the building and ready to initiate a rescue if those inside run into trouble.

“Providing appropriate minimum staffing for fire suppression and other life-threatening emergency incidents will minimize firefighter injuries, civilian injury and death, and property losses in the County,” Hudson said. “Additionally, this grant will improve our future ISO rating benefiting the community through reduced insurance premiums.”

The nine Monroe County Fire Rescue stations in unincorporated Monroe County have an ISO rating of 3. The ISO scores fire departments on how they are doing against organizational standards to determine property insurance costs. The ratings are done from 1 to 10, with 1 being the highest score. Monroe County Fire Rescue also staffs two Trauma Star helicopters in rotation for medical flights to the mainland.

There are currently 120 full-time firefighter positions assigned to 24-hour emergency services. Starting on Feb. 27, 2022, there will be 144 firefighter positions. In 2020, Monroe County Fire Rescue responded to 4,500 emergencies.To apply for one of the 24 open firefighter/EMT positions, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/jobs. Starting pay is $47,450 a year plus benefits.