The truth about the new Lakeland Fire Department straight from the Shelby County Fire Chief

My Fellow Lakeland Residents,

As I have always promised each and every one of you, I will seek the truth and provide everyone with FACTS.
Recently, I noticed increasing controversy regarding Lakeland creating our own Fire Department. Many residents have reached out to me with questions regarding services provided by the proposed Lakeland Fire Department versus our current provider, Shelby County Fire Department. I directed my team to contact the top experts in Shelby County regarding these questions. The questions were sent to Mr. Tom Needham Director of Public Works and Chief Alvin Benson of SCFD. The following are the questions and Chief Benson’s replies:

1. Are you willing to move up another SCFD firetruck into our Lakeland fire station if our Lakeland pumper is on a house fire for an extended amount of time in the Bridgewater Corridor that area known as Zone C?

The short answer is No. We won’t “literally” park a SCFD truck in the station in this instance. What we will do (as we already do for other departments) is respond to a new event as quickly as possible from our next closest fire station(s).

2. How many pieces of equipment will you send to Lakeland on a house fire?

We will send at least one Fire Engine on a house fire, but will consider sending additional equipment (subject to availability) as the situation dictates. You should know that Lakeland currently pays for automatic access to ALL Shelby County Fire equipment. And though we’re always willing to assist our neighbors, the new arrangement won’t “guarantee” the same level of assistance and resources as before. I would assume this is the acceptable trade-off between expected service levels and anticipated savings.

3. How much will it cost Lakeland for dispatching 911 calls or are you doing it for free?

As of this writing, SCFD charges $98.90 per call processed/dispatched. Like Millington and Arlington, Lakeland too would be charged, assuming they want to use our services. As a point of reference, we processed 963 for Lakeland in 2017. This equals a $95,240.70 value for the year that would now be payable by the City of Lakeland.

4. If we become our own fire department will your SCFD Ambulance 65 engage in any firefighting activities with our department?

Except for unusual and/or extraordinary circumstances, the answer is No. Ambulance 65 will not form a “firefighting taskforce” with Lakeland as ambulances do with other SCFD equipment. Again, this is another one of those service level trade-offs.

5. If we have a Hazardous Materials call in the City of Lakeland could that be an extra charge to us?

Possibly, since Lakeland will have no ability to handle these cases (as far as I know). Chief Wolf is your best resource here. He may have plans we are unaware of.

As you can see by Chief Benson’s answers, there are definite trade-offs in service levels versus “anticipated” savings in crucial areas. These trade-offs subject all residents to higher risks when it comes to Public Safety (both personal and property) without any “proven” known savings. For these reasons, I am not willing to support Lakeland creating our own fire department at this time, the risks way outweigh any reward. Therefore, I recommend Lakeland continue services with the Shelby County Fire Department. I have stated before, “I will NOT jeopardize Public Safety to “try” to save a dollar.” I also promise to fully vet and consult with experts when making serious decisions regarding Lakeland residents and the quality of life we all deserve. Complete transparency and communicating FACTS are vital to the success of our city.

Mike Cunningham for Lakeland Mayor