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Lehigh residents offer thanks to fire district for saving lives

September 24, 2014
By TRISH LEONARD , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Jennifer Combs never thought she would need the services of her local firefighter/paramedics.

No one ever expects a life-threatening event. On the evening of August 22, Combs' toddler, Emma, nearly drowned in the family's pool. The panicked Lehigh Acres mother was thankful help arrived in less than five minutes.

"It was a huge accident that could have cost her life, and it can happen to anyone," Combs said, still shaken at the remembrance. "I never dreamed they'd be out saving the life of my daughter."

She and her husband, Bill, now know that having a skilled and reliable fire and rescue service is priceless. There is no monetary value which could be placed on Emma's life.

Combs shutters at the thought of what might have happened if Station 104 were closed - a likely scenario if Lehigh's fire fee assessment does not pass on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"We probably would have had to wait nine or 10 minutes," she said. "I don't know if Emma would've had that time."

The Combs paid $210 in property taxes to the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District in 2013. The proposed fire fee assessment for the 2015-16 fiscal year is $292 per home - a $82 difference for the Combs. That boils down to 23 cents a day to ensure emergency help is there when needed.

"It's worth the extra," said Combs, who is planning to attend the Oct. 18 Fire Prevention Day & Community Open House at Station 102 with her family. "People need to be educated on their services. We don't need to lose them."

Lehigh Acres Fire Control & Rescue does much more than put out brush and structural fires and handle fire and medical alarms. The team includes EMTs, paramedics and firefighters trained in and providing emergency medical transport services and special rescues like vehicle extrication, confined spaces and trench rescue. They assist on hazardous materials calls and rope rescues and offer public assistance like vehicle lockouts.

On Aug. 27, Lehigh firefighters rescued a man trapped in a storm drain in the parking lot of Hope Hospice. Don Goodwin was trying to retrieve his keys when he fell in, struggling to keep his head above water.

"We need to keep taking care of our firemen, that's for sure, because they helped save my life," he told NBC-2, choking back tears.

Lehigh Acres resident and fire commissioner Cathy Kruse sent her heartfelt praise of LAFD first responders to Chief John Wayne in an email in March after witnessing firefighters in action right on her front lawn. An early morning accident at the corner of Homestead Road and Arthur Street propelled a car into her yard. The driver was trapped, and others were seriously injured.

Kruse watched from her porch as paramedics went into action.

"This may sound corny, but I felt like I was watching a movie where everyone knew exactly what part they played," she wrote. "I realize that this is an everyday occurrence for first responders, but for me, it was an experience I've never witnessed before. Thank you all for your professionalism and for the way in which you cared for those injured. You really are Heros!"

The proposed fire fee assessment of $292 per residence amounts to 83 cents a day. What is your life or the life of a loved one worth?

Trish Leonard is with TLC Marketing & Creative Services.



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