In 1998, The Villages was comprised of approximately 9,000 residential homes located within the geographical boundaries of Lake County, Sumter County, and the Town of Lady Lake. The Villages was roughly 9,500 acres, growing at a rate of 1,200 homes per year, with an estimated population of 15,300 residents. During this time, the Lake County Fire Rescue Department, a combination of paid/volunteer staff, provided fire protection services to Lake County and the Town of Lady Lake portion of The Villages.
The response from Lake County Fire Rescue would primarily be from their station located on Hermosa Street in Lady Lake, with the next closest unit responding from Lake Square Mall in Leesburg, FL. Lake County Fire Rescue provided basic life support (EMT) patient care, with minimum staffing of two firefighters on a 24-hour basis.
Fire protection services for the Sumter County portion of the Villages was provided by the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department out of two unmanned stations; one located at the intersection of CR466 and Morse Boulevard and the other station located at CR466 and US-301, with backup provided by other volunteer districts in Sumter County.
Emergency Medical Services were provided to Lake and Sumter Counties by Florida Regional EMS. Each ambulance was staffed with one Paramedic and one EMT, providing paramedic care and treatment to patients requiring transport. At that time, there was one EMS transport unit station in The Villages, with the next two closest units stationed in the City of Fruitland Park and the City of Wildwood.
It was during this time that The Village Center Community Development District (VCCDD) introduced a “Proposal for Improved Public Safety” to provide full-time fire protection and paramedic services to the growing community and rapidly increasing population, with the ultimate goal of reducing response times to emergency calls for service and standardizing the level of response within The Villages.
On October 6, 1998, a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the VCCDD was held for consideration and approval of the proposal for improved public safety, and with a unanimous vote, the Board authorized staff to move forward with the proposal: The Villages Public Safety Department was formed!
The Villages Public Safety Department (VPSD) began operations on October 1, 1999, with one station, one Fire Chief, and 12 Firefighters/Paramedics. During the first year of operation, the department responded to 1,040 calls for service, with the total number of calls for service increasing each year.
Over the past twenty years, the community and population have experienced a tremendous amount of rapid growth. The Villages is the largest single-site residential real estate development in the United States, currently spanning 90 square miles and is the national number one master-planned community with an estimated population of over 134,000 residents. The Villages Public Safety Department has transformed and grown with the community.
Over the past two decades, VPSD has gone from a rural community and department to a suburban community and department. The fire stations are uniquely nestled in the neighborhoods and offer quick response times to all calls. The Villages Public Safety Department service area covers 90 square miles, with 150 firefighters operating out of nine fire stations. The Department has current daily staffing that consists of 50 firefighters and includes two Battalion Chiefs, with a goal of at least 70 percent of the on-duty firefighters being additionally certified as Paramedics.
The Villages Public Safety Department provides ISO (Insurance Services Office) Fire Protection Class 2 services to the residents and visitors from all nine fire stations. VPSD is one of 112 fire departments (out of a total of 517) within the State of Florida and is one of 1,597 countrywide (out of a total of 41,117) classified as an ISO 2 fire department. Insurance companies use the ISO rating to set home insurance rates.
The fleet is comprised of five engine companies, five non-transport rescues, two quick attack vehicles, three ladder trucks, and one heavy rescue pumper: all apparatus are additionally equipped, staffed, and certified in compliance with Florida State requirements to provide first-response ALS non-transport emergency medical services. The department also deploys a Florida State certified/recognized type 1 (heavy) Technical Rescue Team, which acts as both a local and regional state asset comprised of firefighters who specialize in High Angle Rope Rescue, Vehicle Machinery Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, Trench Collapse Rescue, and Structural Collapse Rescue.
Last fiscal year The Villages Public Safety Department responded to 26,711 calls for service, a 2,468% increase from the total number of calls during the first year of operation in 1999. They also provide a wide range of programs for the public including AED programs, family and friends CPR training, and a smoke detector program.
The Villages Public Safety Department is unique and will continue its growth and development synonymous with the community they serve. They are ready, and with purpose and resolve, to deliver on their mission statement with an unwavering commitment to the public they serve.
VPSD Mission Statement: With respect and dignity, the Villages Public Safety Department will work to prevent harm, and respond to un-prevented incidents in an efficient and effective manner with the best resources provided by the community, and be nice.