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Columbia County & High Springs Fire Chiefs Working Toward Automatic Aid Agreement

Fire trucks in front of High Springs Fire Department
Columbia County's fire truck sits in front of the High Springs Fire Department. High Springs had the truck there to make sure its equipment will fit. Chief Gillingham said, "It does."

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – In 2007, Columbia County ended its automatic aid agreement with the City of High Springs Fire Department. The result: the shortsightedness of Columbia County's County Commission left 532 families along the Columbia County - High Springs-Alachua County border under protected, under-served, and paying 40% more a year for fire insurance, because there wasn't a fire station within five miles. The lack of an agreement cost Columbia County's south end residents in the neighborhood of a million dollars in increased fire insurance premiums.

The long time relationship between Columbia County's Fire Chief, David Boozer and the City of High Springs Fire Chief, Bruce Gillingham seems like it is going to pay dividends for both the County and the City as the two fire chiefs work to forge out an automatic aid agreement to present to their respective municipal boards.

Columbia County's Chief Boozer:  "My job is life safety.

New High Springs Pumper
This new High Springs pumper will be available 24-7 to Columbia County's south end residents as soon as the automatic aid agreement is reached.

Earlier today, Columbia County's Chief Boozer told the Observer, "Bruce and I have been in a relationship through the years. We are forging a new relationship between the County and High Springs. We are presently doing joint training and helping one another train our future fire fighters."

Chief Boozer continued, "My job is life safety and that is my first priority. The added benefit to the folks in the south end of the county is they will also see a large savings on their fire insurance."

"In the event that someone in the south end needs service I have somebody that can get there more quickly and take care of the situation."

He said, "It’s a win - win for everyone in the county."

High Springs' Chief Gillingham: "We are trying to move quickly ..."

The City of High Springs was on the same page when earlier in the week, High Springs Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham told the Observer that the relationship between the two fire chiefs is in good part responsible for the new level of cooperation. "David and I go back a long time," he said.

Chief Gillingham continued, "We're trying to move quickly on this. We are trying to get it done -- like now."

"Last Friday the County picked up the 2007 contract. As fast as David gets it back, I will give it to my manager; my manager and I sit down look at it -- our attorney will go through it. We will be off and running."

The Observer, "Do you recall how many calls you were running back in 2007?"

Chief Gillingham, "We were running over 300 calls a year in Columbia County. The fee at that time, (15k or 17k) didn't even cover the cost of one employee.

High Springs needs a fire truck. Columbia County is selling one.

Chief Gillingham is looking to enhance the High Springs Fire Department with another truck of the type that Columbia County is selling. The Chief said that so far the truck looks like it will work really well for the department.

Chief Gillingham, "The only thing to really work out is the length of time that it would take the truck to be amortized. The length of service on the vehicle; length of time on the contract for the value of the truck. The only thing I am waiting on is what Columbia County feels is a fair and reasonable value for the truck and the length of the contract."

The Observer, "How long are you looking at?"

Chief Gillingham, "That's where it's going to get sticky. I think they are asking for five years; I think the city is willing to commit for three."


Both Chief's agreed that the cost to hire a fully qualified fire fighter is about $55,000 a year.

The Observer asked Chief Boozer, "How close are you to finalizing something to present to the entire County Commission?"

Chief Boozer, "We are very close."

The Observer, "If you could get a whole fire department for a year, for the same price it costs to hire one fire fighter, wouldn’t you say that’s a pretty good deal in anybody’s book?

Chief Boozer, "Absolutely."

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