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Fire district ‘pins’ six new members

May 24, 2017
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Surrounded by family members and friends, six members of the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District received their official service badges during a special ceremony last week at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church.

"This year we've have had two promotions and four new hires," Chief Ben Mickuleit said. "We wanted to make these ceremonies more special so instead of doing them one at a time we waited until we had several, in this case six, so all of the families could get together at once."

After welcoming remarks by Mickuleit, Deputy Chief Shawn Brant and Fire Commissioner Tonya Player, the Oaths of Office were administered by Fire Commissioner Ken Cox.

Article Photos


From left, firefighter Randolph Darna, firefighter Justin Knight, firefighter Andrew Kreps, Deputy Chief Shawn Brant, Chief Ben Mickuleit, engineer Matthew Davis and firefighter Adam Rogowski.

Brant was named deputy chief of the department Jan. 27 and was the first to be pinned. Brant is a lifetime Lee County resident and for the last 18 years has served as a firefighter and then as engineer for the department.

"I'm very excited about the direction the department has taken under the chief's leadership," Brant said. "This is an exciting time to be a part of it as deputy chief."

Brant was pinned by his wife, Angela, and son, Joshua.

Next to take the oath of office was Matthew Davis. He was promoted to engineer on April 15. He had been an "acting engineer" for the last 8 years. He married with two children Rylee (10) and Jackson (5).

Davis was pinned by his daughter Rylee.

"I'm very excited about this new opportunity," Davis said. "I've made the effort to educate myself and I look forward to serving the department and Pine Island community for many years to come."

The M/PIFCDP recently hired 4 new firefighters.

"It was a really difficult choice," Mickuleit said. "We had 30 35 candidates and the deputy chief and I worked it down to maybe 10. We were looking for people that wanted a future as a firefighter and I think we made four excellent selections."

Firefighter Randolph Darna was born and raised on Pine Island. His father is a fifth generation Pine Islander and his mother is a third generation Pine Islander. The "family business" is commercial fishing and Darna is also a commercial fisherman.

"I still have 1,500 stone crab traps and I'm a charter captain with several mullet boats," Darna said. "I'm still doing it all - it's in the blood."

Darna has a lot of friends serving the community through firefighting.

"After hearing their stories, I got interested and looked into it," Darna said. "It seemed like something I really wanted to do so I went to the academy and EMT school and now I'm the firstfirefighter in the Darna family."

Firefighter Justin Knight was hired in January. Originally from Wachula, Fla., south of Lakeland, Knight's parents are long-time Florida residents.

"My Grandfather was a firefighter for 35 years in Melbourne, Fla.," Knight said. "I decided that when I finished freshman year of baseball, I would become a firefighter and came to Southwest Florida 4 years ago to attend FGCU fire school."

Knight graduated fire school in September 2016 and worked at the Tice Fire Department.

"I like the idea that there's something new every day - you never know what's going to happen," Knight said. "I do plan on making this a lifetime career," Knight said.

Firefighter Andrew Kreps' family is originally from Atlanta. The Kreps family moved to Fort Myers when he was 3 years old. Kreps worked in the emergency room at Lee Memorial and served in the U.S. Army before deciding to become a firefighter.

"My father was a firefighter in Atlanta and then I married into a firefighter family," Kreps said. "That made up my mind about a career. This is a great department with a great team of people and I'm very happy to be here on Pine Island."

Firefighter Adam Rogowski lives in Cape Coral.

"When I was younger I wanted to either go into the military or the fire department," Rogowski said. "When I was at Ida Baker High School, they offered a dual-enrollment program where students can attend the Fort Myers Fire Academy part-time and that sealed it for me. Once I started fire school, it made up my mind for me."

Rogowski volunteered with the Tice Fire Department for two years and in October passed the EMT test. He was hired in April. "I really like it here, the department is a nice place to work and the people of Pine Island are very friendly and appreciate their fire department. Everyone's happy to see us."

Brant also received his official new white helmet and engineer Davis received a new red helmet. White helmets designate chief and captain, red is for for engineer and black for firefighters.

"This is a very special occasion," Brant said. "This is first time in the history of the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Department that we are administering the oath of office and the pinning of three different ranks in the department. This is a great day for the department."

"Our goal tonight was to bring back some of the tradition of the fire department," Mickuleit added. "By including the community, we recognize how welcoming the people of Pine Island are. That's what this is all about serving the people of Pine Island."



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