It's not often discussed but in my opinion if you are going to have a house fire you are better off having it in Key West than in Monroe County. The city of Key West takes fire protection seriously not least because in the 19th century the city suffered a devastating fire and houses are still built of nicely seasoned wood and have almost no offsets in most of Old Town. When a building catches fire the city fire department responds with overwhelming force. In addition to the three fire stations in the city, Key West can call for help from the Stock Island County station as well as Navy fire fighters and even the Key West airport which all operate separate agencies. People who live in unincorporated Monroe County have a different level of service, and speaking as one such resident I prefer Key West's level of commitment to fire protection.
This issue came close to home a couple of years ago when my wife, home alone sleeping early one morning while I was at work, was awakened by Cheyenne who fretted long enough and loud enough in her understated way, for my wife to realize something was wrong - the house was smelling strongly of smoke. My wife went out and found the air filled with burning embers falling all around. They were papers that escaped from a burning house across the canal and were falling like Chinese lanterns all around the houses lining our canal. My wife got the garden hose out and doused them out as best she could. It turns out our elderly neighbor, asleep in bed was rescued from the electrical fire by an alert neighbor with a ladder who helped her to safety off the rear deck of her raised home (most homes in this county, which is flood prone, are on stilts). The home has been rebuilt after it was reduced to twisted rubble and no one was hurt, but... My wife was grateful Cheyenne was smart enough to wake her in time to deal with the embers.
Monroe County's Board of County Commissioners recently voted down a proposal to add paid firefighters at several fire stations. As unbelievable as it may sound the county's fire protection plan is based on calling up volunteers in the event of a fire. It's a style of fire fighting inaugurated in London in the era of guilds, groups of businesses that arranged to pay for their own fire protection. It was a system that gave birth to modern insurance companies, no great heritage that, but in the 21st century I'd like to imagine firefighting might have become more advanced. However I am reminded of this shortcoming ever time I ride past the sign at the Sugarloaf Volunteer fire station. Which is due for some improvements and modernizing. It boggles my mind to think about how they had better not all be offshore fishing or visiting relatives in Miami, those volunteers if the call goes out suddenly to fight a fire.
The county fire department has been in turmoil for some time as commissioners struggled to hire a leader and then when they did they'd end up arguing with the professional about staffing requirements. I am well aware of these problems and I pay close attention to that biggest source of fire which is untamed electricity (as neither of us smokes), and if there is a reason to prefer living in the chaos of the city fire protection is the only serious reason I can think of. I wonder how many realtors point out these deficiencies to the anti-tax investors who come to the Keys in low tax Florida and spare not one thought as to how they will protect their second homes from fire in this understaffed, excessively long thin county.