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Shrimpers displaced as Fort Myers Beach Fire Department plans new training facility

Posted at 10:51 PM, May 21, 2024

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The state of the shrimping industry on San Carlos Island has been a topic of concern for months. A shrimping building that once stood on the island is now a pile of rubble, recently demolished as the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department prepares to purchase the land.

Virgilio Rijo, a shrimper who has been working these waters for over ten years, expressed his frustration. "Everybody here feels like they're being pushed out," he said. As the number of docking and processing facilities dwindles, Rijo and other shrimpers are beginning to feel the impact.

"It's just slowly shrinking, and everything that the shrimping business has is slowly shrinking, from the waterfront standpoint," Rijo added, highlighting the challenges facing the industry.

If the land sale is finalized, the Fort Myers Beach Fire District plans to construct a training facility on the site. Fire Chief Scott Wirth explained that the original plan was to build the facility near Town Hall.

However, due to soaring real estate prices on the beach, the department decided to sell a portion of their land on Estero Boulevard and purchase land on San Carlos Island instead. This strategic move will save the department millions of dollars and provide them with three acres for the new training facility, compared to just one acre at the previous location.

"I'm looking at a net gain of over two million dollars that could go towards building my administrative building off the island, and it allows me to put the training component in a commercial area rather than a residential neighborhood," Chief Wirth stated.

The decision to relocate has left some uncertainty regarding the future of the docks. Wirth mentioned that the town has not yet decided whether to rebuild the docks or allow shrimpers to use them. With their destroyed station now up for sale, Wirth emphasized the need to ensure all operations are accounted for before making any plans for the docks.

The fire department expects to break ground on their new station near Town Hall at the end of October, coinciding with the celebration of the district's 75th anniversary.