A message from the Chief

The City of Tavares Fire Department is a career department with 26 professionals providing “round-the-clock” fire and life safety protection to the residents and guests of our beautiful city.  Twenty-five of our personnel are assigned to the Operations Division, and work the typical 3 Shift (24-hour “on duty” / 48-hour “off”) fire department schedule.  Each of our 3 Operational Shifts has a Battalion Chief assigned as the shift commander and highest-ranking officer on that Shift.  Three of our personnel (the Fire Chief, our Fire Marshal / Fire Safety Inspector, and our Administrative Officer) are assigned to the Administrative Division, and keep regular Monday through Friday business hours.

Working out of two fire stations, we respond to over 4,000 requests for service every year.  Those responses include fires, emergency medical service calls, automatic and manual fire alarms, automobile collisions, smoke investigations, water rescues, natural cover fires, and weather emergencies.

Tavares Fire Department provides emergency medical care to the sick and injured at the Advanced Life Support (ALS) level.  This service is provided through our firefighters who are also trained and licensed by the State of Florida as Paramedics and/or Emergency Medical Technicians.  Through an agreement with Lake Emergency Medical Services, we respond jointly with their ambulances to medical emergencies, and render emergency medical care to the sick and injured.  Lake EMS provides our medical direction and operational protocol through the Medical Director.

We strive for excellence in the customer service we deliver, and we consider anyone who needs our help to be our customer.  Our primary response jurisdiction is the City of Tavares, but through a series of inter-local “closest-unit” agreements with our neighboring communities (Eustis, Leesburg, and Mount Dora) and Lake County, we routinely travel outside of our city to help others.

Many people are curious about what a fire chief does.  My response to that inquiry almost always includes what I consider the two main functions for any fire chief.  First, the fire chief is tasked with making sure the firefighters of that jurisdiction are available to serve, are well trained, well equipped, and ready to fulfill the missions of that fire department.  Second, the fire chief is tasked with doing everything he or she can to make sure their firefighters operate and work in a safe manner, so that they go safely home to their family at the end of their shift, and work through a rewarding career and live to enjoy their golden years of well-deserved retirement.  If I have done at least those two things, then I think I have succeeded in the most important parts of my job.

Lastly, I have included our mission statements, values and goals at the end of this letter.  We attempt to incorporate these statements as an important and normal part of our professional service.  Everything we do is directed toward that one final, and most important goal, “Everyone Goes Home”!

From all of our fire service professionals at Tavares Fire Department, thank you for allowing us the opportunity and honor to serve. 

Welcome to the City of Tavares,
Richard D. Keith
Fire Chief

Richard Keith, Fire Chief

photo no 69 Richard Keith

One of the many things a Fire Chief does is to make sure Firefighters are equipped with gear that will protect them from hazardous situations that they may have to work in.  For example, our bunker gear (the clothing we use for firefighting, and our Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (abbreviated as S.C.B.A. - our air packs that supply a firefighter with breathable fresh air in a toxic environment) are just two examples of the safety equipment you expect to see us using.

Unfortunately, today’s society is forcing the fire service to go in a new direction of safety equipment; ballistic body armor.  Tavares Fire Department is in the process of purchasing something I never thought we would have to buy – ballistic body armor.  It is a sad commentary on our world, when we have to equip fire service professionals in this manner, but it is becoming our new “normal”.  We never know exactly what hazards we might walk into out there, and we may not get a second chance to go back and do something different, so we have to be proactive and protective now.

We want to share with our friends and constituents that our order for body armor is being processed, and we are developing and implementing a policy that governs our use of this equipment.  Very soon, you might see Tavares Fire Department personnel wearing ballistic body armor vests and helmets. 

By all standards, Tavares is a safe place to be, and we are proud of that.  However, by our policy, our responding personnel will have to wear the gear on certain types of calls, regardless of how safe we feel and regardless of where we are going.  If we respond to you, or someone you know and love, or we enter your home or place of business wearing body armor, please do not be insulted or critical of our apparel.  My goal, as the Fire Chief for Tavares, is to ensure our Firefighters have all the protective equipment they need, so that they go home safe and sound and unharmed at the end of their duty shift.

If you would like to speak with me privately about Tavares Fire Department and my decision to provide body armor to our firefighters, please call me at 352-742-6391

                           Safety Tip

Leave Fireworks to the Professionals

(reprinted from the National Fire Protection Association)

Independence Day and fireworks go hand in hand, but fireworks shouldn’t go in consumers’ hands. That’s the message the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is reinforcing this Fourth of July. Fireworks annually cause devastating burns, injuries, fires, and even death, making them too dangerous to be used safely by consumers.

“Each year, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “Even sparklers, which are often thought of as harmless enough for children to hold, burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause significant injuries.”

On Independence Day in a typical year, fireworks account for two out of five of all reported U.S. fires, more than any other cause of fire. On average each year, fireworks start 18,500 fires, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires cause an annual average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and $43 million in direct property damage.

However, the vast majority of fireworks injuries occur without a fire starting. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2015 Fireworks Annual Report, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks-related injuries; 51 percent of those injuries were to the extremities and 41 percent were to the head. Two-thirds (65 percent) of the injuries were burns, Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for one-quarter (26 percent) of the estimated injuries. Sparklers were the leading cause of fireworks injuries. More than half of the fireworks injuries incurred by children under five years of age were caused by sparklers.

“Knowing the harm fireworks inflict each year, particularly among young people, we urge everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals who are trained to safely put on spectacular displays. It is by far the safest way to enjoy them,” said Carli.

NFPA offers a wealth of information on fireworks safety, including videos and other resources that visually demonstrate just how dangerous consumer fireworks can be.

For additional information on fireworks safety and other NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room on the NFPA web site.