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Beach Fire celebrates 70 years and its fire chief

April 10, 2019
By KATIE EGAN ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

About 70 people came out to the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department's open house this weekend to support the department and learn more about its mission.

Executive Assistant Fire Chief Ron Martin said the turnout, for this time of the year, was phenomenal.

"Tourist season, traffic," he said. "You saw what the traffic is like. It's tough."

Article Photos

The open house celebrated the fire department’s 70-year anniversary and its fire chief, Matt Love, who is the 2018 recipient of the Lee County Fire Chief of the Year award.


The 11 a.m. to noon event celebrated the fire department's 70-year anniversary and its fire chief, Matt Love, who is the 2018 recipient of the Lee County Fire Chief of the Year award.

In 1949, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department began as a volunteer fire department. It incorporated as the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District a year later, when the island had an estimated population of only 2,500 residents.

Dan Allers came out on Saturday because he said it's important to support the people who support the community.

"They're out there helping us," the Fort Myers Beach resident said. "They're not just first responders. You see them helping everyone. So I think it's good to come out and recognize them for their good work."

The Board of Fire Commissioners gave a short speech about the department and fire safety. They also praised Love for his leadership and accomplishments, especially for bringing the department together.

Executive assistant fire chief, Martin, said he hopes people learn something new from the event.

Allers said he learned that the fire department also has a full medic staff, which means a faster response time versus having the paramedic come in separately.

He said knowing that makes him feel safer.

"We get a lot of visitors coming in, and not every visitor is in perfect health, so it's nice to know there's someone on every truck that can help them as much as any doctor could," he said. "I thought that was really interesting."

The event also helped people realize that the fire department does more than fight fires.

"The community outreach component is what we want people to know about that they may not," Love said. "The child education programs, the car seat checks, helmet programs, fall prevention and CPR classes. Those sorts of benefits you don't think of, but this department is here to provide that."

Tuckaway Caf supplied sandwiches and light refreshments were available. Love's award was on display, along with old photos and notes and items from the 1940s.

An ambulance and fire truck was there for people to see up close. There were also informative pamphlets and memorabilia available for people to take home.

When first asked about winning the Fire Chief of the Year Award, Love, who's been the chief for about three years, said it was a shock. He later added that it was cool of the Lee County Fire Services to recognize the changes the department has made.

Love also praised the Board of Fire Commissioners.

"If they don't lead me, how do I lead the organization?" he asked. "They take care of me properly and they let me go do my job. Their leadership of me is what I get to pass on to the troops."

One of the changes Love mentioned included helping the department become more cohesive.

"I'll give you an example. When I arrived, some of our fire trucks were red and some of them were red and black. Some of our cars were white and some were green," he said. "We realized we weren't really consistent with our branding."

Love explained that branding isn't just the illustration of the department.

"We weren't coordinated from the inside out either," he said. "And so it was really just bringing everyone together because we have phenomenal talent in this department-people who have been doing this forever. It was just bringing everyone together and saying let's get on the same page and let's do this the same way and let's let the community know it's us."

Love said those changes allowed the department to take advantage of everyone's individual talent.

"Who's capable of different things," he said. "And it just made us act like a team."

The department also spent about a year building a mission vision of values.

"That might seem like a really long time," Love said. "But we wanted everyone involved in it. So now they have a mission vision of values they believe in and can support so that's one of the things that really led to everyone acting like a team."

Love says he's also amped up the department's training.

"We've kind of developed this environment where people love to train," he said. "That's what they're all about, and that's why the agency is getting the accolade it is, because they're performing that way."

While Love is the recipient of the award, he couldn't have done it without his team behind him.

"I might be the warm and fuzzy guy who talks about how much I love these people," he said. "But they're like my kids."

"And I think if that's how you approach running a fire department, that's the reflection you'll get back. People start to care about each other and take care of each other. And that's kind of how we did it. It's really simple."



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