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Consolidation of 3 Lake County fire departments proposed

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - The cities of Eustis, Mount Dora and Tavares want to consolidate their three fire departments into one as a way of saving taxpayers money.

All three of the fire departments are among the best-equipped in Lake County, but when it comes to budgets, that might not be a good thing, said Channel 9's Berndt Petersen.

"(There's) no reason for all three cities to have a ladder truck when we only need one," said Tavares Mayor Robert Wolfe.

Wolfe and leaders of the other two cities are looking at plans to consolidate the three fire departments into one big golden triangle fire district and save taxpayers a fortune.

The mayor said big-ticket items that all three fire departments have wouldn't be needed if they were one department.

"So, the duplicated equipment being purchased, that would come to an end," said Wolfe.

The plan includes taking over enclaves in unincorporated Lake County that sit in between the cities.

Those residents pay an annual fire fee to the county, which the cities would want a piece of.

One concern is whether it would change county fire rescue personnel requirements, but the county chiefs are telling their crews not to worry.

"Rumors start to go wild when they hear this kind of thing," said Assistant Chief Jack Fillman. "Don't react until we actually know what the plan is."

Wolfe said any changes would not lead to fewer city firefighters.

"I don't think we'd cut back. I actually think there would be more firefighters employed," he said.

The cities will pitch the plan to the Lake County Commission at a meeting next month.