Beach Fire Department Can't Keep Up With Growth

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The enormous amount of growth on Panama City Beach is causing problems for fire rescue workers. They say their services are being stretched very thin, and the department is now asking the city for more funding to keep up with the growth.

"Our department has grown since the late 1980s manpower-wise. In the late 1980s we were probably a little ahead of the curve, but certainly now we're behind the curve," says PCB Fire Chief John Daly.

Chief Daly says they need about 15 more fire rescue workers to meet the emergency service needs of the city. The only way he says they can do that is with a special fire district that's better funded.

Right now the Fire Department's funding comes from the city's general budget. The city is looking for specific ways to better fund the department, including a property tax.

"I think the public reaction would be positive if they absolutely knew this was going to be dedicated to a service they very well could be using; not only for themselves but their loved ones," says Richard Jackson, PCB City Manager.

With extra funds Daly says every firefighter would also be a trained paramedic, filling a crucial need here on the beach.

"The role of the Fire Department has changed. South Walton is a good example. Two years ago they went to a Fire/EMS service with dual cross training. We could have both services," says Chief Daly.

Daly now plans to do more research on special fire districts around the state and will then report his findings to city commissioners.