Formation and Funding
Skyline Fire Rescue was established in 1959 to be the fire department for providing fire protection to the Skyline sub-division. This sub-division was the first of its kind in Santa Rosa County. The department started out with one truck that had an open cab. The Fire Department was funded through donations in those days but the firefighters soon realized that donations and fundraisers were not enough to provide for adequate equipment.
The response of the Skyline Fire District soon grew to include areas outside the sub-division as the need for fire protection in the surrounding areas became greater. In the end the department would be covering an area of approximately fifty-five square miles.
In 1979, the Skyline Fire District realized that they must find a means of funding the fire district. The Skyline Fire District became an independant fire district with the approval of the Florida Legislators. This meant that citizens within the Skyline Fire District would start paying a fire tax that was placed onto the property tax to fund the district.
To accomplish this, a board of five persons was required to be on the Board of Directors. These positions were elected by property owners and residence of the district. A tax rate was set at fifteen dollars per residence, with a small fee added to businesses. The charter was set up so that the most that any residence would ever pay was nineteen dollars and fifty cent per year.
In 1995, the district realized that they would not be able to deliver the levels of service that the citizens of the district had became accustom, based on the maximum tax. With the assistance of State Representative Joe Scarbourgh, a process was found that allowed Skyline to break away from a State fire district that was limiting the growth and be funded under the County MSBU, Mutual Services Benefit Unit.
This gave the department an increase of five dollars per residence. This later would increase in 1998 to thirty dollars a residence. In 2007 due to cost increases of equipment over the years another increase was required to maintain the current levels of service. This increase set the rate for residences less than 3500 square feet accessed at eighty-five dollars, and residences over 3500 sq. feet to one hundred seventy-five dollars. The amount for businesses was also increased accordingly.
Fire Department Structure
All finances of the department are controlled by the Board of Directors. All operations, activities, responses, equipment, and personnel are controlled by the Fire Chief.
Skyline is staffed, as most fire departments, from volunteers of the community. These individuals give up numeroushours of time to ensure that the departmentcontinues to provide the required level of services to the community.
Although the volunteers perform an in-valuable service in responding to alarms, during the weekday hours our department, as with other departments throughout the country, encounter a shortage of personnel during the day-time hours when volunteers are at work. In order to eliminate this deficiency tha Board of Directors voted to hire a full time Fire Chief in October 2006.
In October 2007, the Board voted to hire on two full time firefighters and pay a daily stipend to the state certified volunteers that are available to work with the full time personnel to provide a guaranteed response during the day. The full time personnel are not to replace the volunteers, but to enhance the service. This was the start of fulfilling one of the goals of the Fire Chief and the Board of Directors.
Skyline has some of the most dedicated personnel in the fire service. Some of our members have served this community for many years. If it were not for the vision and goals of these personnel and those before them, the Skyline Fire District would not have grown to the levels of service that it provides for the citizens, visitors, and to the communities of Santa Rosa County.
Skyline may have started in 1959 with little equipment. Over the years the department has grown from one station located in Skyline sub-division, to three additional stations at various locations throughout the district. A new fire headquarters was built at the current location with six acres of land on Hwy 87 N, with additional substations on 2.5 acres off of Lund Rd. in the Roeville community, and on Anderson Ln. near Locklin Vo-tech school. These stations were built to provide quicker response and to lower the ISO ratings that affect the homeowners insurance.
In the early days, Skyline used old, partially homemade fire trucks to perform their task. In 1980, a great breakthrough occurred. Skyline purchased a new fire apparatus. It was a Mack Fire Engine with seating for five personnel.
This truck remained in service until 2008 when it was donated to a department who was in dire need of equipment
to provide fire services to their community.
In 1984, the department purchased another truck, a FMC tanker truck. This unit was capable of firefighting as well as carrying enough water to be used as a tanker.
The fire department purchased an old military brush truck from Avalon fire department in 1988 to help with woods fires.
In 1990, Skyline purchased the first actual custom built fire apparatus in the county. The unit was manufactured by E-ONE fire apparatus. This unit was a major breakthrough in vehicle and firefighter safety.
In 1998, the department purchased a 16.5 foot center console boat for the evacuation of the residence located on the Blackwater River during flood conditions. The unit was funded partially by a state grant.
After the 9-11 attacks, the department saw the need for a specialized rescue team. Fire Instructors were brought down from the New York rescue teams that handled the 9-11 tragedy to train some of our volunteers. In 2003, the training was completed in high angle rope rescue, confined space, and trench rescue. For this team, a 34 foot, fully enclosed trailer, equipped with the most needed equipment was purchased. This team has been used on several missions since they were formed.
In 2006, Skyline purchased a Ford F350 one ton to pull the special rescue trailer as well as to carry a 6000 psi cascade system to refill our air cylinders on scene.
In October 2009, Skyline purchased a 4X4 F150 to serve as a Chief’s vehicle and for pulling the rescue boat and other task.
In May 2009, the department took delivery of two new engines. One a state of the art Rescue Pumper that is equipped with vehicle extrication equipment, special rescue equipment, firefighting equipment, as well as medical equipment. The other was smaller Type six engine with forestry, extrication equipment, and small portable water supply pumps.
In 2003, Skyline received a grant that provided for a station generator and a breathing air compressor for our air cylinders.
In February of 2008, Skyline received a Homeland Security grant for the purchase of twenty-four airpacks with built in accountability systems to keep informed of the Firefighters condition while inside a structure.
Skyline Fire District also purchased thermal imagers in 2008 for each of the first out response units.
Our firefighters started in the early years with what little training that was available. In the 1980’s, a 30 hour volunteer course was available, but not required. Now, our volunteers attend a 206 hour firefighting course as well as a 40 hour First Responder medical course. Additional training in extrication, wildland firefighting, haz-mat, and Incident command, are also required. Skyline conducts a minimum of three four hour training sessions on each Tuesday night and on some Saturdays. We encourage our personnel to take as many courses as possible, including the Firefighter two course that is required in Florida to work as a paid firefighter, and the EMT course. The department provides the funding for as many of these courses as possible. We have completed a much needed confined space training prop that is located behind our main station. This was made possible with the help of funding from the Santa Rosa County Board of Commissioners. Our training is also aided through the construction of our own training facility which includes a two story live fire burn area.
Future Plans and Goals
Continue to elevate the level of protection to the community through the services and education provided through the fire department. Continue to provide advanced training to personnel. Another goal is an addition to our main station and the acquisition of a ladder truck as well as hiring of four more full time firefighters to provide adequate coverage during the times when volunteers are at work.