homepage logo

Dave Tyrrell retires after lifelong career as a local fireman

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Nov 4, 2020

Pine Island firefighter Dave Tyrrell is retiring after a 40-year career in Southwest Florida. PHOTO PROVIDED


After 40 years in various fire departments, Dave Tyrrell had his final engine ride on Oct. 2.

Having worked from Captiva, Cape Coral and Pine Island, Tyrrell has had a bird’s eye view of many different positions on many different teams, not only as a firefighter, but also as an engineer, lieutenant and finally as a captain.

After serving in the Navy in the late 1970s, Tyrrell found a place as a volunteer on the Cape Coral Fire Department.

“At the time I was really just looking for something to do,” said Tyrrell, “but I learned to love it.”

That led to his getting hired by the CCFD, where he stayed on for 17 years. “The basic position on most fire departments,” explained Tyrrell “is firefighter EMT. You have to be a state certified firefighter and a state certified medical technician. You’re the person dragging the hose — the one doing most of the grunt work. After some training and education you learn pumping and you become the driver of the truck and you operate the truck as the engineer.”

In his time at the CCFD he went from a volunteer to a firefighter and then was promoted to an engineer, then a lieutenant, before being promoted to training captain and division chief.

After retiring in Cape Coral, Tyrrell moved out to Pine Island. It wasn’t long before another islander caught his ear and encouraged him to use his credentials and certifications to contribute on the island as a volunteer for the local fire department. As a result Tyrrell ended up taking the test to work for the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District and continued his career as a lifelong firefighter.

“I started all over again,” Tyrrell says with a chuckle. “That was 22 years ago.” He said although the early years held a lot of growing pains for the department, they worked hard to make it the best it could be.

“Over time people have come and gone,” said Tyrrell, “I want to say that the people that work there are the best people around. They have the highest integrity and I really respect the people that I’ve worked with in Pine Island. I can’t say that enough.”

He said going to work was always easy because he knew the focus of everyone on the team was going to be doing the best possible job for the community.

In looking back over his career Tyrrell remembers two significant calls within the first 6 months.

“One was a plane crash in North Cape,” he said. “That was a really intense call and two people died. It was frustrating due to its location, which was hard to get to. We didn’t even know what it was when it first came in. I couldn’t believe I was dealing with something like that.

“The other was a call we were responding to in Cape Coral,” he continued. “I was in the rescue truck by myself following the engine when the engine was involved in an accident. It actually swerved to avoid an accident and it rolled over. I saw it happen right in front of me and the two people in the truck were my friends — my co-workers. They were incoherent and incapacitated. Here I was, just a firefighter for six months. These kinds of things were so profound to me and I was hooked.”

Tyrrell said in his career he’s dealt with everything imaginable from medical and rescue calls, murders and suicides to car accidents and hazmat situations. He describes being a firefighter as being part of an extended family. “Everybody is really close,” said Tyrrell. “The friendships are so strong. You’ll do anything for your brothers and sisters in the service.”

This camaraderie, he said, extends to EMT and EMS units, sheriffs and police officers, especially in Pine Island, where there are fewer first responders.

He recalls his final engine ride as having been filled with emotion and his career overall as a series of interesting situations.

“Everyone is always running the other way,” said Tyrrell. “You’re running toward it and everyone else is leaving. It was just exciting enough to keep me interested for 40 years.”