Does Walt Disney World have enough firefighters? Union says no

Video: Reedy Creek firefighters say they need help responding to emergencies at Walt Disney World

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Reedy Creek firefighters say they need help responding to emergencies at Walt Disney World.

According to the union, the number of firefighters with the Reedy Creek Fire Department hasn’t changed much in 30 years, even though attendance has soared and the park has added several more parks, hotels and restaurants.

The 44-year-old man who had his arm trapped in a ride at Typhoon Lagoon on Dec. 8 had to wait too long to be pulled out before he was flown to the hospital, the fire union said.

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“I would say about seven or eight minutes,” said Tim Stromsnes, president of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Union. “We had to wait for guys to clear calls, to come back, and get the squad, which has all our specialty equipment on it.”

When firefighters get multiple calls at once, some people are forced to wait because of staffing issues with the Reedy Creek Fire Department, the union said.

In the late 1980s, the fire department had 30 firefighters per shift. Today, Stromsnes says there are 32 firefighters per shift, despite the park’s tremendous growth. Walt Disney World property is twice the size of Manhattan, and can have a population of up to 350,000 people on its busiest days.

Reedy Creek said it has increased staffing with the fire department as a whole by 52 percent since 2000, but the union said the added positions are medics on golf carts in the parks, not firefighters.

Stromsnes worries if Reedy Creek doesn’t raise the number of firefighters to at least 46 per shift, they could be overwhelmed if something big happens.

“The day before [the Pulse shooting], the shooter was out here on Disney property. So we are a very high target hazard,” Stromsnes said.

Channel 9 reached out to Disney for comment. Disney referred questions to its governing body, Reedy Creek, which asked for more time to respond.