9 Investigates: Aging fire-fighting vehicles raise concerns in Seminole County

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

Next week marks one year since Leon Wright lost three of his friends in a fast-moving fire that destroyed a home in the Jamestown area of Seminole County.
 
Budget problems have kept a planned fire station that might have sped up response to the house fire from being built.
 
"I don't think that's a good situation. I think those people could've been saved here if they got [help] sooner than they did," said Wright.
 
Channel 9's Karla Ray learned that those budget issues may be forcing many fire trucks and ambulances out of service for maintenance, and they may be in maintenance more that they are in service.
 
Ray obtained more than 100 pages of work orders and found more than a dozen fire trucks and ambulances were out of service more than 20 percent of the time they were supposed to be available since January.
 
"It's a problem the public doesn't even know exists," said Mike Edmiston, with the firefighters union. 
 
July was especially bad for Seminole County. A firefighter sent Channel 9 photos showing 16 units out of service on one day alone.
 
Ray found that one rescue truck from Station 35, near Sanford, was only working 10 percent of the time it was supposed to be available.
 
"Over the last six to eight months, we've had at least a half-dozen rescues (vehicles) go down with patients on the way to the hospital," said Edmiston.
 
The department has been running on reserve units, and that is something that worries Wright.
 
"That's an important feature you've got in your community is fire trucks, so I think they need more money. I think they put money toward everything else, so why they can't do it toward the fire trucks?" Wright said.
 
The union representative told Ray that when the economy took a bad turn in Seminole County, the replacement schedule for vehicles went from about every five years to every 10 years.
 
Ray tried to contact the county's public service director, but he wasn't available for comment.