On Tuesday morning the Board of Commissioners of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department heard an update on the department’s Life Safety and Short Term Rental Ordinance enacted in March 2016.
Fire Chief Matthew Love began with an update on the department’s Life Safety and Support Services division, headed by Executive Assistant Fire Chief Ron Martin. Deputy Fire Marshal Jennifer Campbell is now onboard, and with increased staffing the backlog of registration inspections has been cleared for the most part. New registration inspections are scheduled at the time of registration, though both Love and Martin say that the department is sensitive to scheduling around occupancy, which leads to delayed inspections during season.
Martin explained that he works with the Town of Fort Myers Beach, which has a Short Term Rental ordinance requiring registration of all short term rentals in the Town. Recently the Fire Department sent notices to those on the town’s list that should also be registered with the Fire Dept, but had not yet registered. Thirty of those responded the same day, many saying they were unaware that they needed to register their short term rental with both the Town and Fire Dept. Martin estimated that there may be 200-300 properties that should be registered with the department that have not yet done so, adding that there are approximately 1,445 properties currently registered with the Town.
Since the Life Safety and Short Term Ordinance went into effect in 2016, 378 properties have been registered and inspected: 133 in 2016; 71 in 2017; 162 in 2018 and 12 in 2019. Non-ordinance related inspections have been steadily rising: 743 in 2016; 838 in 2017; 989 in 2018 and 172 to date in 2019. The Fire Dept. is now doing building plan reviews in-house, as well as inspections.
“The best fire we fight is the one we prevent,” said Martin as he described what the rental ordinance inspection entails. “It’s based on E-A-P. Egress – how would someone get out, is there a second exit? Alert – are there smoke alarms, with a battery log? Protected – How is a resident protected, are there handrails, are the stairs safe? The Fire Dept. can provide a Pre-Inspection Checklist to anyone who asks so they know what the inspector will look for. To obtain one, call 239-590-4200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other business, the board discussed the Fire Chief Appraisal, reviewed the Board Policy Manual and discussed monthly incident statistics. Chief Love reported what he’d learned about the possibility of establishing term limits for the board. “Most commissioners have served for 1-2 terms with one serving four terms and one three terms. No other south Lee district has term limits. To add term limits, a referendum would be required and the Florida Legislature would have to approve the change. The minimum cost was estimated at $27,364 plus attorney and other fees.” The board declined to pursue term limits further.
The next meeting of the Fire Board is scheduled for May 8 at 9:30am at the Beach Library Community Room.
By Missy Layfield