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Cape Coral Fire Department marks year of growth and achievement

By CJ HADDAD - | Mar 28, 2024

As is customary every year, the Cape Coral Fire Department has released its annual report, detailing the year that 2023 was.

The report compiles information regarding the department’s mission, vision, values, budget, fire prevention, operations, logistics, emergency management, and other areas.

With Cape Coral showing no signs of slowing down its population growth, the city’s first responders are working to be prepared for now, and the future.

CCFD Chief Ryan Lamb, in a message, stated in part, “This year, we strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders such as the International Association of Fire Firefighters, Lee County EMS, neighboring fire departments, and most importantly, our residents.

“Additionally, recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian are still in full swing, with the CCFD’s Division of Emergency Management coordinating these restoration and hardening efforts. Recovery from a major disaster like Hurricane Ian will take years, but this meticulous process will result in our City becoming more resilient into the future.”

Planning for the future

Lamb had established a five-year strategic plan to go along with the city’s growth, and that plan is nearing its completion and ready to be revamped, CCFD officials said.

“And that strategic plan aligns with the city’s strategic plan, so they’re working in tandem,” said CCFD Deputy Chief Mike Russell. “We get to review all of the major proposed developments and land use changes that might happen in the city, so we get to kind of forecast growth and forecast where our future stations might be, where our future larger developments would be the would that would dictate a large increase in call volume so we can make some plans for those. We do have some studies that indicate where the growth will be in the next five, 10, 20, 30 years in the city, to help us plan our future.”

In 2023, Rescue 4 was added, and construction of Fire Station 13 began and is slated to open in late May/early June. Construction has also begun on the department’s new training facility, which officials say will help firefighters be safer and more efficient while on the scenes of emergency responses.

Budget and staff

The department’s budget in 2023 totaled $72,449,809, with the majority ($47-plus million) being allocated to “operations.” Roughly $32 million of that budget came from a nearly equal split of the General Fund and Fire Services Assessment.

With the number of residents and developments coming to Cape Coral as fast as a firefighter rushes to answer a call, the budget, which can be re-visited each year with the city, is anticipated to increase.

“If we don’t have the right number of staff, or equipment, we can’t execute the mission,” Russell said of the importance of being able to revise the budget annually. “There’s nobody after us. There’s no other number than 9-1-1. It’s important that we’re properly equipped, properly staffed, properly trained. The city does a great job of coordinating with us. So when we submit budgets, we submit them for multiple years, and we can go in and fine-tune. Our goal is never to just increase the budget, but sometimes that’s just a product of growth. More people, more resources. Really the hope is that the growth pays for the growth.”

Russell said the CCFD has submitted a request to the city for funding to build Station(s) 14 and 15, and to upgrade an existing station in the North Cape where growth is prominent.

“We haven’t seen any forecast that shows Florida, or this region, slowing down,” Russell said. “We expect the growth to continue.

“And sometimes we don’t need to build a new fire station in an area, we just need to add resources. Sometimes the area has just grown so much from when the station was built, you need to bolster the resources.”

Calls for service

In total, CCFD responded to 29,408 calls for emergency response in ’23, or one every 18 minutes. Of the $86 million in property at-risk, only $3.3 million in losses were recorded, resulting in 96% of property being saved. CCFD ranks in the 90th percentile when it comes to response time, taking a total of 10:18 minutes from dispatch, and getting out of the station in fewer than 5 minutes.

“In my time here, 20 years, calls for response have doubled,” Russell said. “That call volume continues to grow most years.”

Russell said there was actually a slight decrease (2%) in calls from ’22 to ’23, but that it is most likely attributed to the influx of calls at the end of ’22 due to Hurricane Ian.

“Had it not been for the hurricane, I think we would have seen a 2 to 3 percent growth from the ’22 number if you excluded the hurricane,” he said.


In total, CCFD firefighters underwent 60,960 hours of fire and general training, including search and rescue, ground and aerial ladder operations, fire extinguishment, vehicle extraction, engineer/driver training, and fire officer training.

With the new facility being built behind Ida S. Baker High School, Russell said it’s a great opportunity to incorporate the school’s firefighter explorer program.

“There’s some classes that they can take, and we can partner up with them,” he said. “We’re excited to be able to expand that partnership and have some time with them at that facility. It’s really a recruitment retention initiative for us, as we could have a good work pool there. It’s exciting because that facility is not just for us, we’ll be able to reach out regionally for courses, and work with Ida Baker. It’s really a great initiative for the area.”

Hurricane recovery

Not even two years removed from the most devastating storm in the region’s history, fire department staff spent much time and resources in 2023 focusing on Hurricane Ian recovery and storm prevention.

Throughout the year, the city submitted 19 projects for a combined estimated cost of $173.5 million through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program designed to help governments rebuild in a way that reduces future disaster losses. CCFD officials said the city is working on 89 projects with roughly $25 million dedicated from FEMA through Public Assistance, designed to help governments repair or replace critical infrastructure that has been damaged by a major disaster. Officials said $9 million has been received from the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management for expansion of the city’s Emergency Operations Center.

“There are still areas of impact, and you can still see businesses coming back,” Russell said. “Plans for the Yacht Club are coming to fruition. Roofs are being put on. The heavy lifting is already done, but there’s still some out there dealing with insurance companies and doing complete rebuilds.”

Russell added it can be especially tough on firefighters during major weather events, as they have a duty to serve the community while enduring great loss of their own.

“We’re not only out there doing a job and helping, in many cases, our firefighters are victims of a disaster themselves,” he said. “We have personnel that lost their homes completely, lost their roof, or couldn’t get a hold of their family for several days because communications were down and they evacuated. It’s a double-edged sword.”


Throughout the year, CCFD added 17 firefighters, two fire inspectors, and one quality assurance specialist (more to come with the addition of Station 13). There were 14 engineers, seven lieutenants, and a fire marshal that were promoted. CCFD saw 4 members retire with a combined 111 years of service.

Something special that took place this past year was the department gaining accreditation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

Officials said this is a “strategic-minded, community-driven, risk-based process that focuses on ensuring the community needs and expectations are met.” The accreditation has been a five-year goal of CCFD, and the final commission hearing took place this February.

Gaining accreditation holds the department accountable for itself, and works to ensure all of the proper functions and procedures are in place to function effectively. The department reviewed its systems, policies, and equipment routinely to make sure things were up to standard and relevant, and the right actions are being performed.

“It was a culmination of several years of hard work from a lot of members of the department,” Russell said. “It was a big accomplishment for us. It was the first time in the department’s history. There’s only 33 departments in the state that are accredited, and only 324 nationwide.

“I think it’s just a testament to Chief Lamb’s leadership and planning that we were able to use ’23 as that big preparation year after several years of work and get that awarded to us.”

As for what the department wants the community to know about its firefighters and their makeup if there were to have to call in a time of need, Russell said. ”

“It’s important for them to know that the department is make up of professionals that care about them and their families, that take the oath seriously, and hold ourselves to a higher standard. We’re prepared on a daily basis to put ourselves in harm’s way for their safety. The fire department is here to help them when they need them. We’re properly staffed, trained, and equipped, and stay at the ready when the call comes in.

“We’re also a network that works routinely with the Cape Coral Police Department and Lee County EMS to create a safe community for them and their family to enjoy. For us, it’s about ‘service over yourself.’ We’re here for the public, and that’s first for us.”