Stuart Fire Department is One of The Top in The U.S.


At the last Martin County Taxpayers Association board meeting, Stuart Fire Chief Vince Felicione, along with Chief of Operations Troy Bowser and Stuart Commissioner Troy McDonald, gave a presentation about the department.

McDonald wanted to make sure that the community knew that Stuart and Sewall’s Point (to whom the city provides fire rescue services) is the beneficiary of a rating from the Insurance Service Office (ISO) of 1. Very few departments in the entire United States can boast of achieving that. It saves money on fire insurance for the residents and shows that the department has risen to the highest level of achievement.

Felicione stated that the department has 43 employees virtually all of whom are paramedics. Many come to the department with that training saving Stuart the expense of certifying their credentials.

The city is about seven square miles in size and generates 7500 calls for fire rescue services a year. Stuart Fire Department is opening a third station in north Stuart. It was revealed by the city after this meeting that it will be located on Green River Parkway and should open by the end of next year. Currently, there is a temporary facility with a rescue vehicle in North Stuart.

Like the county, the city has also applied for a federal SAFER grant to hire six more fire fighters to staff the new station. A subsequent discussion with the chief revealed that within the last three years, 8 Stuart fire employees have gone to work at the county with another 4-5 possibly leaving in the next few months.

The county does pay more which has enticed some fire/rescue employees to leave the smaller department. Both departments also lose personnel to both St. Lucie and West Palm Beach in addition to other departments further south. It is our contention that it becomes easier for employees to commute longer distances because of the unique nature of fire departments’ 24-hour shifts. We may examine this arrangement in a subsequent article.

Stuart had $180,000 in overtime in the past year mainly due to COVID. The negotiated contract with the union allows for a minimum of 2 years’ service for a new hire before they can move to another department. The city feels that provision is enforceable on the employee. The county, which has similar language, does not believe it is worth the expense of trying to keep the employee.

There is a new interlocal agreement between the county and city. The agreement is for each department to handle calls within their own jurisdictions. This was meant to cut down on cross-jurisdictional calls. It is too early to tell whether it will or not. The departments are dispatched by the county’s emergency dispatch system which is paid by the county’s general fund.

It is difficult to sort out whether income from responding to calls at assisted living facilities are adequate or not. Both departments are entitled to reimbursement from insurance companies and government services such as Medicare. Whether the income is sufficient may be in question because of the nature of the response. The county will send more equipment and therefore it could be more expensive.

There is much more to examine in both departments to see whether our taxes are being spent appropriately and whether any savings exist.

Stuart Fire Dept: