Last alarm looms for Layton Volunteer Fire Department

A Monroe County Fire Rescue truck on Friday is parked in front of the Layton Volunteer Fire Department.
A Monroe County Fire Rescue truck on Friday is parked in front of the Layton Volunteer Fire Department. Keynoter

The Layton Volunteer Fire Department, with more than a half-century of history in the tiny Long Key community around mile marker 68.5, will soon become history.

“We’re just running out of people, especially younger people,” said Philip “Skip” Haring, Layton city administrator and lieutenant of the volunteer department that formed in the late 1950s.

Monroe County commissioners, meeting Wednesday in Marathon, will be asked to formally approve turning Layton’s volunteer fire operations over to Monroe County Fire Rescue.

Last July, the eight active members of Layton’s volunteer department voted, 6-2, to dissolve their corporation effective May 1.

“Several of us are in our 70s,” Haring said. “It’s tough to find younger people because they’re too busy working.”

“Eight or nine years ago, we started running out of volunteers to service our area,” Haring said. “It’s not worth it to have weekly meetings and training with only five or six people there.”

Layton’s population generally is listed at between 182 and 200 people.

Monroe County Fire Rescue already provides three full-time professionals to the Layton station near mile marker 68.5 and owns the fire truck used by the department. Ambulance service comes from a nearby county station at Conch Key.

The Layton department owns a 2014 Ford F-250 equipment truck that will be signed over to the county, along with a generator and “two pull-out bed rollers.”

“We have a very amicable relationship with County Fire Rescue,” Haring said. “They’ve always treated us extremely well,” Haring said.

Three or four Layton volunteers plan to transfer to the county’s volunteer program that works alongside the professional firefighters and emergency medical technicians. Layton residents should see “no change whatsoever” in the fire-rescue response, Haring said.

Most funding for the incorporated city’s volunteer department has come from fire-rescue taxes assessed by the county, supplemented with voluntary donations.

Into the 1980s, most fire-rescue services in the unincorporated Florida Keys outside of Key West were provided by volunteers. Increased training requirements and a changing population caused most of the volunteer departments to merge with Monroe County Fire Rescue.

The County Commission meets at 9 a.m. at the Marathon Government Center, mile marker 48.5 bayside.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206