About

History

The roots of the North Bay Fire District were planted in 1973, when the Seminole Volunteer Fire Department was formed.  The original six (6) members of the fire department met in the garage of Smith Wilburn on Cedar Street in the Seminole community.  Kenneth Messiner was appointed as the first Fire Chief.  The first apparatus consisted of two (2) water tankers on loan from the U.S. Forest Service.  The fire department later moved into what is now the Seminole Community Center.  The fire department operations were originally funded by fundraisers and an annual fee of $5.00 per family.

In June 1977, the Okaloosa County Commission formed the Seminole Fire District and the funding vehicle became property taxes.  The first elected Board of Fire Commissioners was Lampton, Powell, McKinney, Messiner and McLean.  The first paid firefighter was Fire Chief Woodrow Sweet.  In 1978, the appraised property value of the fire department was $6.2 million.  In 1980, the fire department purchased its first fire truck, a used 1954 Ward-LaFrance pumper.  In 1982, the population of the fire department was estimated at 2,600 people and the Insurance Service Office (ISO) Fire Protection rating changed from 10 to 8.  Also, the appraised property value in the fire department was $45.3 million.

In 1983, the name was changed from the Seminole Fire District to the North Bay Fire District and the direction of the fire district was changed forever.  In April 1983, the first Master Plan for the fire district was presented, calling for the fire district to become a “hybrid” fire department with a full-time paid firefighting staff augmented by volunteer firefighters.  The plan also called for the construction of a new fire station and the purchase of two (2) fire trucks.  The first new fire truck was Engine 32, a 1983 Grumman.  On June 20, 1984, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new fire station with a dedication to follow on April 13, 1985.  In 1984, the appraised value of the property for the fire district was $70 million.  In January 1986, the fire district employed five (5) paid personnel (providing coverage from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. daily) with about fifteen (15) volunteers.

In 1986, Fire Chief Donald C. Wheeler was hired to replace Fire Chief Woodrow Sweet.  The fire protection rating was changed to a split 6/9 with the six (6) in the areas with fire hydrants and the nine (9) in areas without fire hydrants.  The fire district started a retirement program for employees in 1987.  The second new truck, a Grumman Tiger Cat, a 95 foot ladder truck, arrived in August 1988.

In June 1994, the mortgage was paid.   In 1995, an E-One engine was purchased and placed into service, replacing Engine 32.  Tanker 38 was salvaged leaving the fire district two (2) pumpers and a ladder.  A re-evaluation by the Insurance Service Office in 1996 changed the fire protection rating to a five (5) for the entire fire district.  The fire rating was again changed to a four (4) in 1997.  On June 1, 1997, the fire district switched the retirement program to the State of Florida Chapter 175 program.  Members had the option of staying with the old plan, or switching to the new 175 Plan.  Anyone hired after the inception date was required to participate in the new plan.

On May 28, 1998, the Florida Legislature recreated the North Bay Fire Control District, as an independent fire control district per Florida Statute, Chapter 191.  In 1999, a new E-One compressed air foam pumper was delivered.  Shortly thereafter, the 1954 Ward-LaFrance pumper was salvaged.  In late 1999, Fire Chief Wheeler retired and a search was conducted for his replacement.  On June 13, 2000, Fire Chief Thomas Santner from Fort Myers, Florida, was hired to replace Fire Chief Wheeler.  Fire Chief Santner presented the idea of North Bay providing an Advanced Life Support (ALS) program to the Board of Fire Commissioners.  A plan was formulated and the search for Paramedics started.

The fire district has continued its phenomenal growth and in 2001 had an aerial apparatus, two engines, three staff vehicles and a boat.  The three chief officers, three captains, twelve firefighters, administrative assistant and twelve volunteer firefighters still occupy the same fire station.  The population of the fire district was estimated at 16,000 with an appraised property value of $650 million.  On August 12, 2003, the Board of Fire Commissioners voted to suspend all water operations and disposed of Zodiac 8 due to the maintenance upkeep and unsafe condition of the vessel.

On September 28, 2004, the Board of Fire Commissioners decided to disband the volunteer program and go with an all paid staff due to increased expense and new requirements for fire ground operations levied by the State of Florida.  In November of 2004, a referendum was placed on the ballot to allow the fire district to change the millage cap from 2.0 to a 3.75 in order to fund the new ALS program.  The voters approved the referendum by a vote of 4982 yes and 2173 no votes.  Fire Chief Santner passed away unexpectedly on February 6, 2005.  In April 2005, Assistant Fire Chief Joseph A. Miller was promoted to Fire Chief.  The Board of Fire Commissioners approved an increase in personnel to five (5) per shift on May 10, 2005, to insure we had enough Paramedics for the ALS program.  In 2007, the Board of Fire Commissioners approved the funding for a replacement of Ladder 8.  Ladder 8 was sold to the Paxton Volunteer Fire Department in Paxton, IL on March 29, 2007, for $75,000.   Tower 8 (a Pierce 100 foot platform ladder) was delivered on April 27, 2007, and was placed in service June 1, 2007.  The cost of the new Tower 8 was $863,000.  A new tax reduction plan by Governor Charlie Crist in 2008, created an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for Florida property owners.  That equated to a $90,000,000 property value decrease for that taxing year.  September 2008, the appraised property value of the district was $985,720,578 with a millage rate of 1.7827.

On October 1, 2008 at 7:00 a.m., the North Bay Fire Control District started providing Advanced Life Support Service to the entire community.  December 2008, a new Board of Fire Commissioners took over after the election to oversee the fire district.  Call volume had increased to 822 runs for the year ending in 2008.  In 2009, the property values continued to decline with values sinking to $925,702,298 and a millage rate of 2.05.  Commercial construction continued to increase in the fire district.  February 26, 2009, the North Bay Fire Control District held its first Live Fire Training Burn session in the newly configured conex boxes.  A live fire gas training area was also constructed with the help of Okaloosa Gas District.  The addition of these two areas provides realistic controlled live fire training for the fire district.  In October 2009, fire hydrants were installed in the Seminole area under a County Grant and all areas of the fire district are now covered by fire hydrants.  March 2010, discussion was started for the possibility of a new fire station.  The bay floor and the ramp were sinking and a structural engineer had been contacted to evaluate the floor.  April 2010, the 10-Year Master Plan was updated with an addition of a line item for a building fund starting at $50,000 per year.