Special Ops

Traditionally firefighters have been known as the “jack-of-all-trades, and master-of-none”. For example, in dealing with building fires, firefighters need to have a basic knowledge of building construction; and while handling vehicle accidents, they need to have a general understanding of the vehicle mechanics and manufacturing. Although this basic knowledge works well for building fires and vehicle accidents, it does not provide the skills necessary to safely and effectively handle specialized situations such as chemical spills, water related emergencies, and building collapse.

In recognition of this, Iona McGregor Fire District has designed, developed, and implemented several specialized teams to handle these incidents. These specialized team members have undergone extensive training in their specific fields.

Haz-Mat Team

In 1984, the Fire District responded to a reported substance fuming at a local mobile home community. Once on scene, the crew found unknown vapors issuing from a small sewage treatment plant. The events that transpired over the next 8 hours included an injury of District personnel, the evacuation of the residents, and damage to personal property and District equipment. What became clear was the need for specialized training and equipment to manage the Hazardous Materials incidents the District responds to.

In 1985, the District started the Hazardous Materials Team; equipping it with the latest training and equipment to mitigate incidents and prevent harm to the residents and environment. The team currently consists of 33 members with an average experience level of 10 years. The initial coordinator was Lieutenant Elliott. In 2006, Battalion Chief Elliott was promoted to Fire Chief and appointed Lieutenant Hartman as Coordinator. With Lieutenant Hartman’s retirement in 2010, Eng. Palijan has been appointed as the Haz-Mat coordinator.

To date, the personnel assigned to the Hazardous Materials team have received training from the University of Florida, EPA, National Fire Academy, the International Association of Firefighters and Burgess and Associates. Team members are trained to meet the requirements of CFR 1910.120 paragraph q. Some of the more challenging incidents responded to since its inception include fuel tanker crashes, chlorine leaks, cyanide disposal operations, pesticide spills, Anthrax alerts and marine fuel spills.

Inter-agency cooperation takes the form of team training with the surrounding agencies including the City of Fort Myers Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard along with other Lee County Independent Fire Districts and the Lee County Emergency Operations Center. Through the county-wide mutual aid agreement, the District makes the Hazardous Materials Team services available to the area agencies.

Water Ops Team

The Water Ops Team has been expanded to 34 personnel, mainly out of Stations 72, 74, and 75. The founding members were Lieutenant John Klingerman, Engineer Dave Howard, and a host of support personnel. The Water Ops Team has been expanded to 40 personnel, out of Stations 71,72, 74, and 75. The founding members were Lieutenant John Klingerman, Engineer Dave Howard, and a host of support personnel. Initially the team operated out of a flat bottom sand bar type of boat. Members began to expand their dive training and a new boat was purchased from Sanibel Fire Department for $1.00. It was rebuilt and put into renewed service. Iona water ops member currently operate out of 32 foot aluminum Metal Shark twin outboard vessel. All water rescues were primarily surface rescues. Diving takes place from the boat or land. Each first out fire engine is equip with a rapid dive scuba pack and the vessel and support truck are equip with 4 sets of full scuba gear. Divers certify and train at Scuba Quest located in the District on McGregor Blvd.

All current team members are open water, advanced diver, and NAUI Public Safety Diver. Iona McGregor is one of the only two fire departments in the County to have dive capability. All boat operators or pilots have U.S. Coast Guard Boater Safety certification and some have completed BOSAR (Boat Operator Search and Rescue) certification.

The Water Ops Team trains monthly, in diving and practicing boat operations. Annually, the IMFD Water Ops Team participates in Marine Emergency Response Team (MERT) training events. MERT training events are multi-jurisdictional events, involving search and rescue, diving, and firefighting skills. Participation in these events have given us extensive training along with the experience of working with many other agencies to accomplish one goal, water safety.

The Iona-McGregor Fire District was recognized by the Coast Guard at an award ceremony for their participation in MERT (Marine Emergency Response Team). They were presented the award by Commanding Officer Robert Gruschow and Coast Guard Station Fort Myers Beach crew members. The award, the Meritorious Public Service Award is the second highest public service award of its series awarded by the commandment of the Coast Guard. Criteria for the award include unusual courage in advancing a Coast Guard mission, substantial contribution that produced tangible results, and accomplishments that provide unique benefits to the public. Iona McGregor is very proud to receive this award and is proud to be part of the Marine Emergency Response Team.

Technical Rescue Team (TRT)

The Iona-McGregor Fire District’s Technical Rescue Team is made up of 24 members. Nine of these personnel are also members of the Southwest Florida Urban Search and Rescue Team, also known as Florida Task Force 6, a state resource. The remainder of Iona’s Technical Rescue Team was trained through a State of Florida grant that earned them the designation of “Light” Technical Rescue Certified. All Task Force 6 members have been trained to the Technician level in the following seven disciplines: high angle (rope), confined space, trench, vehicle extrication, building collapse/ shoring, swift water/ flood, and large animal rescue. The remainder of the team has been trained to the Operations level in all of the above disciplines except flood/swift water and large animal rescue. All personnel on the team train together on a regular basis to provide the District with a highly motivated, competent Technical Rescue Team.