ITID: Fire-Rescue Response Times Are Still Too Long

The ITID Board of Supervisors — (L-R) Keith Jordano, Elizabeth Accomando, Betty Argue, Michael Johnson and Patricia Farrell.

Members of the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors are again expressing concern about Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue response times in their semi-rural enclave.

In December, PBCFR took an average of 8 minutes, 27 seconds to respond to 225 calls, of which 166 were for medical assistance and 20 for vehicular accidents.

“It has been an ongoing issue for a long time,” Supervisor Betty Argue said.

Indeed, a March 2023 review by the Town-Crier of data supplied to supervisors by PBCFR showed that more than 50 percent of calls in The Acreage area had a response time of 8 minutes or more, even though PBCFR’s overall county average response time is 6:53.

For all of the 2023 fiscal year, the average response time for 232,278 calls was 6:50.

“The Acreage Neighborhood Plan sets out a goal of 5 minutes,” Argue said.

“You can’t send a $500,000 or $600,000 fire engine [racing] down a dirt road,” Battalion Chief Moses Abdelnour told the supervisors. “It takes a toll on the vehicle, and it’s not safe to drive it that fast.”

“Eight minutes is too long when brain cells start dying at four minutes,” District Chief Amanda Vomero said this week. “We work hard to find the balance.”

Vomero pointed out that ITID is difficult terrain for PBCFR because of the number of narrow dirt roads, canals, locked gates and the increasing traffic load on area streets as The Acreage continues to grow.

According to the December report, fire dispatch took an average of 40 seconds to handle a call, and the fire-rescue units were rolling 47 seconds after they received the call out. The rest — seven minutes — was travel time.

“Sometimes we get caught in traffic like everyone else,” Vomero said. “Even when we have lights and sirens going, there’s just no place for people to go.”

ITID has one fire station (Station 26) in the district proper at 6085 Avocado Blvd., with two others nearby in Westlake (Station 22) and on Okeechobee Blvd. in Loxahatchee Groves (Station 21).

“The response time concerns everyone,” ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said. “It’s time [PBCFR] realizes another fire station is needed in the northern part of the district because of all of the growth out here.”

“I would welcome it,” Vomero said. “I’d love to tell residents it’s going to be put up tomorrow.”

In other business:

  • The supervisors agreed to a six-month contract with Nomad Fitness to continue its use of space in the Acreage Community Park South parking lot for its workout program. Nomad will pay $600 a month.
  • The supervisors agreed that “Level 2” background checks would be required for all ITID employees coming in contact with children at Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park. The park on Hamlin Blvd. east of Hall Blvd. recently has undergone a major renovation with the finishing touches being added this month. A grand opening is expected toward the end of February. Supervisors discussed seeking sponsors for a new picnic pavilion at the park.
  • The supervisors heard that illegal manure dumping is continuing at several ITID areas, including Cypress Groves, where residents are concerned that it has become so pervasive that it may be affecting the neighborhood’s water quality.
  • The supervisors agreed to reach out to the county about allowing feral cats in the TNVR (trap, neuter, vaccine and return) program to be fed on the grounds of the Acreage branch library on Orange Blvd. “We’re just wanting to help residents who are doing a good deed by feeding the cats,” Supervisor Keith Jordano said.