SWFD hears the chief’s report and update on the Miramar Beach Fire Station

By RUBY KEARCE 

The South Walton Fire District (SWFD) board met for its regular meeting on Monday, April 8. Attorney Rene Youell began her report by announcing that SWFD’s trademark is now live. Fire Chief Ryan Crawford began his Chief’s Report by informing the board of major incidents during the month of March. Crawford said that around 4 p.m. on March 17, SWFD crews were dispatched to a lightning strike, and upon arrival were met with a 6,000 square foot residential structure with smoke from the roof. After clearing the home of occupants, the fire was found to be located inside the attic, with estimated damage being $150,000 to $200,000. 

On March 24, SWFD crews were dispatched to a structure fire, and once on the scene, firefighters located a golf cart fully engulfed in flames on the second floor balcony of the residential structure. The cause of the fire is believed to be related to a malfunctioning with the charging of the golf cart. The estimated damage to the structure was approximately $30,000. 

On March 28, SWFD received a missing persons call regarding a man who went out kayaking in the Grayton Beach area and did not return home when he was expected. Due to strong winds that day, SWFD crews were confident that he was carried offshore and was experiencing difficulty getting back. Lifeguards and deputies searched the beach, numerous jet skis were deployed and the coast guard, Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and FWC all came together to search for the missing kayaker. After almost seven hours of searching, crews found the kayaker about miles miles offshore. 

Five new firefighters began orientation training in March and were wrapping up training the following week. Crawford moved on to announce that on March 20, SWFD hosted veteran fire service leader Ryan Brush for workshops centered on implementing incident command training and department opportunities. Not only members from SWFFD but also members from all over northwest Florida took part in this training. 

Following Chief Crawford’s report, SWFD board commissioner Roger Hall requested an update on the district’s hurricane procedure for the upcoming hurricane season. Crawford informed Hall that the district has a hurricane annex within the SWFD emergency plan, and when the district is at the landfall of a major hurricane, either category four or five, they will make a decision in real time if an evacuation is necessary or not based on the hurricane’s path, which normally occurs once a mandatory evacuation order is given. Crawford further explained that the district typically leaves a “skeleton crew” on site with a safe room on the premises and moves the district’s resources and assets over the bridge until it is safe to redeploy them. 

Chief Daniel LaTour then approached the board regarding a board action item for the Miramar Beach Fire Station construction contract change order approval process. He said that at the Nov. 13, 2023, SWFD board meeting, commissioners approved the construction contract with Empire Building for the amount of $5,871,389, with a performance period of 361 days for the construction of the Miramar Beach Fire station.Then on Nov. 15, 2023, the approved development order was issued for the project, and the required building plan and flood review permit was issued on Jan. 5, 2024. Following that, Empire building submitted for the building permit on Jan. 8, 2024. 

LaTour said that new building codes were adopted by Walton County’s building department and went into effect for all permits applied for after Dec. 31, 2023. The new building codes now require increased building wind loads of 150 miles per hour, among other, minor, changes. This has resulted in SWFD’s architectural firm being required to update the Miramar Beach fire station’s construction documents to address the increased wind load requirement.  As a result of these changes, SWFD will receive change orders to account for the additional structural engineering design, review, and inspection time. LaTour said that the district will be expecting additional change orders as the construction moves forward due to the complex nature of the project.

LaTour added that substantial completion of the fire station is projected to occur on May 21, 2025, which will result in the construction cost to expand into fiscal year 2025; however, the Fiscal Year 2023/2024 budgeted $4,999,270 for this project, which will cover all anticipated construction costs and the associated change orders within the current fiscal year, and the remaining balance for the competition of the project will be requested for the fiscal year 2024/2025 budget. 

LaTour concluded by saying that SWFD staff is requesting that the Board of County Commissioners grant Fire Chief Ryan Crawford the authority to approve change orders that are necessary or reasonable, and fall within the approved budget for the fiscal year 2024, and if approved, SWFD staff will periodically update the board on the status of any changes.  A motion was then passed to approve the request.