Polk County, Florida – The Polk County Fire Rescue Department already in the midst of a severe shortage of staff may be looking for a new chief! The Daily Ridge was made aware that PCFR Chief Robert Weech was seeking the position of fire chief for the City of Lighthouse Point Florida. The city board will vote on a resolution tonight on whether to hire Chief Weech.
The Daily Ridge reached out to the county for comment as no public statements have been released at this time. According to Polk County Communication Director, Mianna Nelson, the county is aware of Chief Weech seeking the position, but have no formal resignation at this time.
Both Chief Robert Weech & Deputy County Manager Joe Halman, Jr have presided over what is becoming a crisis for the professionals in the Polk County Fire Rescue. Staff is is being over taxed. While they are not alone due to the pandemic, they have problems that go way deeper than the pandemic. It’s well documented how the department treated a long standing fire fighter just because he wanted to work for a volunteer agency. The story of Jerry Riner is well known by many, but many other situations occurred that fire rescue professionals just simply quit or gave up on doing what they loved by volunteering. Morale among the staff appears to be very low.
While the county continues to grow in population and housing the fire rescue staff is having difficulty keep up. In an article from last year the Lakeland Ledger described the staffing standard and issues
In an article from WFLA in January of this year describes the change in mandatory overtime from 48-72 hours . In that article “They have to get the scheduling under control because you’re not going to have much of a department over the next couple years,” said Dionte Brown, who lives in Winter Haven.
Here are a few recent posts to Polk County Professional Firefighters – IAFF Local 3531 social media page:
“Did you know the current state of Polk Fire staffing?? For too long the men and women of PCFR have been bearing the burden of staffing shortages that the County has failed to provide any actual resolution to.
Todays staffing 6/25/22:
18 – Members working Mandatory Overtime
5 – Engines with 2 personnel instead of 3 personnel
1 – Engine COMPLETELY out of service
1 – Advanced life support engine without a state certified Paramedic on board
Please help us spread the word. This is unacceptable and is a disservice to the hard working tax payers of Polk County
“Today’s staffing 6/26/2022:
22 – Members working Mandatory Overtime”
“Todays staffing 6/27/22:
24 – Members working Mandatory Overtime
3 – Engines with 2 personnel instead of 3 personnel”
“Did you know that so far this year, the men and women of PCFR have worked a combined total of 87,843 HOURS OF MANDATORY OVERTIME?? Current as of 6/27/22”
As one fire rescue person told the Daily Ridge “They need to do better”