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New ambulance to counter traffic, sprawl

Fire officials say a vehicle and crew in the area would help whittle response times.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002


NEW TAMPA -- New Tampa and North Tampa are the areas of the city with the strongest claim to a new ambulance, Tampa fire officials told the City Council on Thursday.

Because of the sprawling layout of the area and rush-hour traffic, an additional ambulance would serve a critical need, Rescue Chief Bruce Savage said.

The area in need stretches between Hillsborough Avenue and County Line Road, Savage said.

The City Council, which is considering adding another rescue unit next year, was trying to ascertain where it is most needed and how much it would cost to provide an additional ambulance and emergency team.

The two main options appear to be New Tampa, at fire station No. 21, or closer to the University of South Florida, at station No. 13 or No. 8.

"You're in trouble in north New Tampa because the distances (to homes) are so great," said Shawn Harrison of Tampa Palms, who represents District 7 on the City Council.

At-Large council member Bob Buckhorn said it made more sense to add an ambulance "closer to the heart of the city" and free up the team at fire engine No. 20 to handle only New Tampa calls.

Both council members noted that they were likely to support a new ambulance where the fire department felt it was needed most.

In August 2001, the average response time of an ambulance at station No. 20 was about 7 minutes and 40 seconds, according to Tampa fire data.

The first full month of operation for Station 21 was December 2001 when the response time was just over six minutes. The January 2002 response time was roughly the same. The fire department aims for a six-minute response time.

Assistant Chief David Keene said that the department currently has enough personnel to cover New Tampa adequately and that the biggest problem is traffic congestion.

"Once they get that traffic problem solved," he said, "the rest will take care of themselves."

The initial cost of a new ambulance and firefighters to operate it would be $550,814. The annual operational costs would be $381,637.

-- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com.

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