‘How much do you care?’: Lakeland residents concerned over emergency response time amid approval of residential expansion

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Amid approval of another new residential development, southwest Lakeland residents are demanding public safety infrastructure keep up with rapid growth.

“Public safety needs to grow as Lakeland grows. How much do you care about the safety of our citizens?” asked Barbara Sweeney, a concerned resident from Carillon Lakes.

“Why is the city of Lakeland reactive instead of proactive with the infrastructure of our city’s growth?” asked Pam Stephen, a concerned resident at Carillon Lakes.

City commissioners voted 6-1 this week to approve a 130-acre expansion to the Morgan Creek Preserve development on West Pipkin Road. It will add 321 single-family homes to the area.

“We don’t want to see another tragedy such as we had in 2012 occur again,” said Jackie Majka, who lives in nearby Carillon Lakes.

In 2012, a home was destroyed and two nearby homes were damaged from a fire in the Carillon Lakes development. It took fire crews 12 minutes to get to the scene.

In response, Majka and others campaigned for the construction of Fire Station 7 which opened a few years later.

Now they are bringing attention back to response times amid more and more growth.

“With a wide coverage area and an increase in service locations with two trucks, we are concerned about public safety,” said Majka at the meeting.

Lakeland Fire Chief Douglas Riley said fire crews have to travel around the airport to get to these developing areas.

“We’re looking at a nine to 12 minute response time which we’re not comfortable with,” said Chief Riley.

Mjaka and others are asking the city to purchase a rescue truck to better serve their community. The chief said the addition of a rescue truck would have many advantages, including a cheaper cost, less maintenance and the need for less fuel.

“The biggest one is if that rescue truck is running that medical call then more often than not the fire engine will be available when a fire engine comes in and we won’t have that 15 minute response time,” said Chief Riley.

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