Fire Chief Mickuleit serving the island with honor
In 2004, Fire Chief Ben Mickuleit began his career as a firefighter. He describes the opportunity to save people’s lives as very rewarding, adding that he couldn’t ask for anything more. He sees the future of fire service providing more medical services, which may be why he takes his role as a paramedic so seriously.
“Eighty to 85 percent of our call volume is medical,” said Mickuleit. “Our plan is to have advanced life support paramedics on all the trucks, just so we can provide faster aid to the community. When you call 9-1-1 and it’s medical, the majority of the time, a fire truck will be there first to help you.”
A typical workday for Mickuleit, he said, begins with greeting the firemen and making sure they have what they need. He admits supporting the firefighters is among his top priorities, adding that they are the backbone of the district and that without them they would cease to be the department that they are. He said many of them live in the same district they serve and therefore have a very personal investment in their jobs.
“They’re the ones who put their lives on the line to go out there and save yours,” said Mickuleit. “They do everything they can to save the district money. They do all the maintenance. They build brush-trucks — they do it all. So they’re really the heart of the district.”
Mickuleit further explained that an important aspect of his job is providing the necessary tools firemen need in order to do their jobs. In addition to supporting his men, Mickuleit said some of the duties carried out by the team include dealing with repair orders, personnel and budget issues, dealing with the community, setting up public events, attending meetings and networking.
Considering everything, however, he said his main priority is always the community.
“When I became chief,” said Mickuleit, “we created an introduction for new employees. We used to have an organizational chart, and it read, commissioners, fire chief, deputy chief, captains and firefighter. Since then we’ve added community, because community is on top, it’s number one. We also added a motto. It’s ‘Our family serving yours.’ They pay their taxes and those taxes pay us to provide the service.”
He emphasized that without the support of the community, they wouldn’t be able to do everything they need to do every day, adding that his own love for the community makes his job very satisfying. To date, his favorite part of the job, he says, is the reward of actually having been able to save someone’s life.
For the most part, he admits he tries to work in the background, applying for grants and things of this nature, but in trying to better serve the community, on behalf of the department, he applied for and received a grant for Narcan, a remedy drug for opiate overdose. After that he said they had to find a medical director, whose job it was to make sure the department knew how to correctly use the drug for any call they would receive on an overdose of opiates.
“We’ve had two saves with it already,” said Mickuleit. “What a difference it has made, just because we tried to think of other ways to serve the community. It doesn’t always have to cost money. That’s why we apply for grants. We did have to pay the medical director and we had to pay for the special box it goes in but the drug itself is free and we have a good supply of it. So now all the frontline engines have Narcan on the truck.
“That’s what’s rewarding about the job. When the background effort you put into it saves lives — you don’t want any recognition, my job is just providing the tools for the guys.”
For the future, Mickuleit said he would like to see advanced life support on all the trucks. Although currently, they’re all EMTs with some paramedic certified firefighters, he said to secure the equipment, the trucks and to get set up with a medical director, will take approximately five years. It will take two years to get the crew certified, and at least another year to get credentials through a medical director.
“We’re almost like an insurance policy,” said Mickuleit. “I hope you never need us, but when you do, we’re there and you can trust that we’ll give you 100 percent.
“It is an honor to serve Pine Island.”