South Gulf County volunteer fire department offers more than protection


South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department’s joint chiefs, Melissa Larsen and Nick Vacco.

Wes Locher
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 09:33 AM.

If you’ve ever been in an accident, had an emergency on the beach or attended a local fundraiser, then you’ve probably met one of the 30 volunteers who make up the South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department.

Joint fire chiefs Melissa Larsen and Nick Vacco take community involvement as seriously as they do fighting fires.

“Each of the previous fire chiefs had their own vision,” said Larsen, an eight-year volunteer. “Our vision is ‘community.’”

With two stations on Cape San Blas, one near Salinas Park and the other outside T.H. Stone St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, the department covers 50-60 miles of beach each day and utilizes a combination of beach rescue, aerial pumper, brush trucks, all-terrain vehicles and jet skis to serve the Cape, Simmons Bayou, Jones Homestead, Money Bayou and Indian Pass.

Members are able to respond to local emergencies in 3-5 minutes and are able to fight fires and perform other first response duties such as CPR.

Vacco, a three-year member, reported that 97 percent of his firefighters are FF1 certified, which calls for over 365 hours of training in firefighting, first response and equipment operation.

In addition to tackling flames, water emergencies and the occasional stingray barb, the department’s members spent hours a day maintaining a presence and patrolling the beaches where they hand out flyers and give away hats and glow sticks while building a rapport with visitors to the area.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top