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‘Complacency is dangerous’

By Tim Croft
The Star

A hot, humid Saturday morning with just a sprinkling of clouds 

The Gulf of Mexico’s waters are but a very strong stone’s throw in the distance and the entrance to the peninsula state park a few hundred yards walk. 

Ideal conditions for relaxation and recreation. 

South Gulf Fire Rescue volunteers were working with hoses and connections to ensure water to a fire scene

Or, in the case of the South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department, a perfect day for training. 

“Training is life,” said Mike Barrett, Assistant Chief for the department. “We train so we can save our lives and others. 

“You can never know enough if you are a first responder or a fire fighter. There is always something knew to learn.” 

A member of the Panama City Fire Department provided the training

Last Saturday, the work at Station 2 was focused on learning the fastest and most efficient way to bring water to a fire scene, no matter the distance. 

“You never know if there is a hydrant nearby or what kind of water pressure you will have,” Barrett said.  

So, work was with a hoses connected to a hydrant and the department’s tanker trunk which holds roughly 2,500 gallons of water. 

The tanker was connected by hose to a pumper truck, which holds about 1,000 gallons. 

And, at the scene of a fire, that is no more than a few minutes of water, at best. 

Volunteers, with assistance from a trainer from the Panama City Fire Department, worked through various scenarios on getting water to a fire scene. 

They walked through different episodes, the dials and controls to watch closely on the tanker trunk, and discussed options. 

The tanker truck in the background holds 2,500 gallons; the pumper in the foreground about 1,000 gallons

“Complacency is dangerous,” Barrett said. “All of the county fire chiefs are dedicated to giving their people the best training.” 

There are not, Barrett noted, a lot of fires, though the South Gulf department did have three last year. 

Emergencies are not a daily occurrence; what is essential is understanding, by instinct, what to do when the emergency does arise, Barrett said. 

“It is imperative we train for what could come,” Barrett said. “We have to give our people the best training and assets.” 

And as is typical of a day of training involving the SGVFD, the demographics among volunteers is, well, a wonder and a testament to community-pride. 

The end result, fire to the scene

Among the dozen or so volunteers out last Saturday, there were a number of familiar faces, but, as is typical of the department, also new faces. 

Mixing together into a cohesive group. 

“It’s a good group of people,” said Marianna Warhol, who recently moved in from New Jersey. “I love to do volunteer work, anything.” 

She successfully completed the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training offered by Emergency Management. 

“I just joined the department,” Warhol added. “It’s great. It’s a lot to learn.  

“There are a lot of things a fire department has to do that does not involve fighting fires.” 

Whatever she can do, Warhol said, she is on hand to do. 

One fit could be the “triage” unit the SGCFD has established to assist firefighters at the scene, providing respite, liquids, whatever is needed. 

Rob Biancheri is involved with his volunteer fire department in Tennessee, where he spends roughly half of each year. 

When he is in Gulf County, the South Gulf department is home. 

“It’s not about yourself, it is something beyond yourself,” Biancheri said.  

“There is always a need for someone capable and willing to sacrifice time, any maybe their life, to help.”


The South Gulf Volunteer Fire Department received a donation of 11 satellite phones from a local resident.