CORAL SPRINGS, FL - There was a time when professionals such as lawyers and doctors responded to fire calls in Coral Springs.
They arrived at brush fires, house fires, and other emergencies in their own cars, equipped with red jumpsuits, coats, boots, plastic helmets, and axes. They trained in buildings set for demolition and cars damaged in accidents.
It was the 1970s, and those firefighters were rated as one of the best volunteer units in the country, according to a city memo.
That volunteer spirit built the modern-day Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department, which celebrates 50 years of service in 2020.
“Today’s firefighters are still a family that supports each other,” said Joy Carter, the city’s vice mayor, whose ex-husband was a volunteer firefighter in the mid-1980s until he moved up to captain and retired in the mid-1990s.
Coral Springs is honoring the anniversary with events and initiatives, including a 50th-anniversary logo, uniforms, historical photo albums, video, formal dinner, and an extravaganza that will be open to the public, according to the city budget. The city budgeted $50,000 for the celebrations.
The department’s history is steeped with stories about volunteer firefighters.
In the mid-1970s, when a gas crisis gripped the nation, residents had to pay a $3 charge each time they needed firefighters. The money was given to volunteers as compensation for responding in their own cars and for their “sacrifice attending to the needs of the City,” the city memo said.
As the city and Fire Department grew in size in the 1980s, the inevitable issue of pay for firefighters came up. In 1995, the city hired the “First 15," as the professional firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics were known. The hiring didn’t end the volunteer service as the new employees continued working with volunteers.
Finally, in 2004, Coral Springs Fire Department became a fully paid workforce after 35 years of volunteer service. Since then, the department expanded to add on service to Parkland. The city also opened a fire academy training center.
Today, the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department is a modern, urban agency with 400 personnel that responds to about 16,000 calls for service each year.
As for the future, Carter said the main challenge facing the department is the same issue facing other fire agencies: funding – money for upgrading trucks and updating equipment, additional staff, and other resources.
“Fund is always an issue,” Carter said.
No matter what, she added: “They are a stellar department with many impressive initiatives. We’ll make sure they continue being top of the line.”