Hurricane Irma’s damage to all five Lehigh Acres Fire Department stations was so serious that Stations 101 and 102 had to be closed.
According to Lehihgh acres fire chief Robert DiLallo, water leakage from the storm resulted in damage to the stations’ roofs, drywall, and ceilings. Garage doors were also blown off by the strong winds.
Dilallo said that the stations are both very old, and are not safe. In describing the scenario at Station 102, he said it was raining inside the station and water was inside the walls.
DiLallo says the degree of damage will be determined when insurance adjusters, who have visited the damaged stations twice already, finish their reports.
Station 101 is at 1000 Joel Blvd. and 102 is at 10 Homestead Road South.
At Station 101, a temporary a double-wide trailer will serve as a temporary facility while repairs are being made, and equipment will be placed inside the station bays, which were unharmed.
Whether or not the bays at 102 can be used will depend upon the analysis of a structural engineer.
The damage at Station 101 is apparent, with shingles and roofing paper strewn across the front of the building, and sheet metal roof edging peeled back.
Signs have been put up advising that the stations are closed and that 911 should be called for emergencies.
Station 101 crews will be housed at station 105 on Thomas Sherwin Avenue while crews from 102 will be housed at station 104 on 16th Street SW until temporary housing accommodations can be made.
According to DiLallo, response times will be affected, but only until temporary housing is completed.
The chief said that there have been plans to replace stations 101 and 102; in fact, some property was purchased along Homestead for a new station location. Additionally, he said, a sixth station for the North Sunshine area is needed.
Any plans for expansion were put on hold during the 2008 economic crisis, but the 142- square-mile district needs about nine stations in order to properly serve the population.
“We’re definitely behind,” he said. “But funding is the biggest issue.”
“It’s been a pretty interesting year for me as a first-year chief,” said DiLallo.
There has been a large number of brush fires this year, and the debris left behind by the hurrcane could pose an issue as well. The chief is optimistic that the cleanup will happen soon, though. Dried-out downed trees will not necessarily increase the risk of new fires, but they can contribute to existing fires burning hotter and faster.