Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) will take Rescue 24, located at Station 24 off of NW 143rd Street, offline starting on Wednesday unless current staff and voluntary overtime can adequately man the unit.
ACFR announced the change on Tuesday evening and said staffing shortages were to blame. A press release noted that agencies across Florida are hurting for more employees. Fire rescue efforts to bolster staff had fallen short.
Gainesville Police Department (GPD) Acting Chief Lonnie Scott Sr. told the Gainesville City Commission on May 5 that the police department found itself in a similar situation.
ACFR said it picked the unit because of the lower calls received from the area and the Advanced Life Support Fire Engine—also located on the site—can respond to urgent medical needs. Fire rescue also maintains additional stations in each direction from Rescue 24.
According to the release, ACFR has advertised its openings constantly as the staffing shortages forced a dependence on voluntary and mandatory overtime.
Alachua County Fire Chief Harold Theus addressed reducing and eliminating the mandatory overtime in the release.
“These last few months, it has reached an unreasonable point,” Theus said in the release. “Mandatory assignments are not good for the employee, the department, or the citizens we serve. We have implemented several changes to accommodate for our reduced workforce, but at this point, I have no other option other than taking a rescue unit out of service.”
The release highlighted ACFR’s efforts to streamline its hiring process, cancel transfers that leave the county, use administrative staff on rescue units and encourage overtime. But those efforts still leave the organization understaffed to meet growing demand.