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Boca hires firefighters to keep pace with growth

Posted at 3:18 PM, Jan 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-22 17:08:51-05

It takes a lot to get Marco Pindo out of the kitchen. But the owner of Ristorante Sapori in downtown Boca Raton didn't have a choice one day this summer.

An air conditioning unit on the roof started burning. He called 911 and firefighters showed up.

"They asked questions, they told us to leave, to open the door because they didn't want to put us at risk," Pindo remembers.

It turned out to be a small electric issue, but Boca Raton firefighters say they're getting called more and more.

Assistant Chief Michael LaSalle says the proof is in the numbers: In five years from 2010 to 2014, the departments saw a 6.3 percent rise in the number of calls.

Then, in one year, from 2014 to 2015, firefighters saw a 6.5 percent jump.

"I've been on the job about 25 years and the downtown area is really booming," LaSalle explains.

So the city hired four new firefighters/paramedics this fiscal year. They finished their training and officially started January 11.

A city spokesperson says the additional firefighters cost $406,800 this year.

LaSalle says having more firefighters on staff will allow the department to spread its resources more effectively, so they're ready when you need them.

"We provide the best customer services to our residents and our visitors in the city and this will just be a little better," he points out.

Pindo calls it a blessing from the sky and money well spent.

"I can tell my customers, your bill is going to be one penny more, for example, because this penny goes toward my taxes to pay firefighters because they make me feel secure," the restaurant owner explains. 

LaSalle says firefighter/paramedics are most often called to medical emergencies, but have seen the number of car crashes rise lately. 

The department also hired 10 other firefighters this year to replace existing, budgeted positions left open through attrition.