Fire Chief Paul Dezzi is trying to assemble historical displays of the department's past.
As the town moves forward on a project to rebuild Longboat Key's south fire station and renovate its north fire station, Chief Paul Dezzi doesn't want to forget about the past as the Fire Department looks to the future.
Which is why Dezzi is leading an effort to set up historical displays in both fire stations to highlight the heritage and past of the department.
“I’ve seen Sarasota’s fire department grow, and there’s certain things in the department that are traditions,” Dezzi said. “As a small family, we’re trying to bring that back here. I think bringing in the history of the fire service is a good way of doing that. I think there’s a lot of buy-in from the community here.”
A major goal of the initiative is to keep retirees from Longboat’s fire department involved, which can be difficult because many move away.
“My hope is, once we open the new firehouse down there, that we have firemen retirees that will come back,” Dezzi said.
As of right now, Dezzi has a mini trove of photographs, newspaper clippings and odds and ends that he said the fire department found in its closets. Some gems include the first medical protocols ever written, a photo of a yellow fire truck from decades back, old equipment, like a hose clamp the department doesn’t use anymore, and a collection of obsolete sprinkler heads.
But, Dezzi said, department odds and ends won’t be enough to fulfill a comprehensive vision of setting up displays in both fire stations showing the timeline of fire department history. He’s seeking help.
“I sent an email out asking people if they had any information or any photos or equipment they want to donate, or we could copy,” Dezzi said. “I want to make sure we try to reach out to as many people as we can. I didn't know whether there was anybody out there that would have anything else that we could possibly use.”
People can call the department or walk in if they have materials they’d like to offer. That said, Dezzi doesn’t mind going to people’s homes if that’s easier for them.
The displays may help honor the legacy of former firefighters, but they will be open to the public as well.
It seems Dezzi’s passion for Longboat Key’s firefighting history stems from his family. Four generations of male Dezzis have sought out firefighting as a career.
“My father was a fireman in Philly,” Dezzi said. “My twins work together in North Port, and my son works in Sarasota. There’s all five of us as firemen, and my grandfather was a fireman. So it’s four generations. That history is neat.”