by Dennis Reeves Cooper…….
Today, if you dial 911 to report a fire, the Key West Fire Department will typically be at the scene of the fire within five minutes. When I was researching this story and former Fire Chief Eddie Castro gave me that information, I asked the question again. “Come on, Chief, five minutes from the time the call comes into the fire station to fighting the fire does not seem credible.” “Well, actually,” he said– lecturing me like one of my old professors– “the response time is more like three minutes. With three fire stations on the island, we are close to most potential fire sites. And when a call comes into one or more of those stations, we can usually be out the door within a minute and, then, at the fire scene within a couple more minutes.” This gives a whole new meaning to the term ever-ready. And combine response time with state-of-the-art “apparatus”– the millions of dollars worth of fire engines and other equipment– as well as 88 highly-trained firefighters– and you have a situation where most fires in Key West don’t have much of a chance to cause catastrophic damage. But it wasn’t always this way.