Danny Cacchiotti compares his early days in the department with its position before merger with East Manatee Fire District.
When Myakka City Fire Control District Chief Danny Cacchiotti joined the department 26 years ago, it was made up exclusively of volunteers.
After learning about the corps from a few of the volunteers, he showed up to one of the group’s weekly Monday night training sessions. After the training session, he signed up, and that was it. He was a member of the fire department.
“It was a very tight-knit group,” Cacchiotti said. “We would get there on a Monday evening, and the volunteers would cook dinner for everybody. We'd have dinner, and we’d have some discussion and just good fellowship. Then after that, we would do our training. We’d do that every Monday evening.”
Cacchiotti has seen a lot of change since then, as the fire department has transformed from a group of about 35 volunteers in 1995 to a professional department with far more rigorous training, better equipment and a second station.
He became the department’s fire chief in 2005 and will oversee it until it is absorbed by the East Manatee Fire Rescue District on Oct. 1, pending commissioner approval. Oct. 1 will also mark the first day of Cacchiotti’s retirement.
Today, the department has 11 full-time firefighters, three county paramedics, eight volunteers and two part-time firefighters. When Cacchiotti first became the chief, every emergency was “all hands on deck.”
Although it became a full-time department in 2001, Myakka only had three full-time firefighters besides Cacchiotti, in addition to three Manatee County paramedics. Although East Manatee would help with any large-scale incident, it usually took time for assistance to arrive, meaning the small Myakka City crew had to provide the initial response on its own.
“Those firefighters had to be very confident and skilled individuals,” Cacchiotti said. “They were treating people on their own for 15 to 20 minutes before that help was coming in.”
That was true when there were only two emergency responders treating a patient in cardiac arrest. Cacchiotti said it is very difficult for one person to give CPR for a prolonged period of time, meaning the two first responders needed to switch. Whoever wasn’t actively administering CPR didn’t have time to rest, however, because someone needed to gather equipment, help set up artificial respiration and administer drugs all while monitoring the patient.
As the chief of such a small department, Cacchiotti always had to make himself available. Around 2009, he and his wife, Darlene Cacchiotti, decided to travel to Plant City on their anniversary for the Florida Strawberry Festival. They had almost reached Tampa when Cacchiotti received a call about a large brush fire. After listening to his radio and hearing some of the details, he knew they had to turn around so he could go back and help.
Luckily, Cacchiotti said, his wife was once a volunteer with the fire department herself, so she was always understanding of such situations.
“If a firefighter’s family isn’t onboard and supportive of what they're doing 100%, it can make for very difficult home life,” Cacchiotti said. “I've been very fortunate that my wife has always supported me through this journey.”
As far as the department has come since Cacchiotti first joined, he said the merger with East Manatee will improve emergency response in Myakka City even further. There will be more firefighters responding to calls, newer equipment and even better training.
Furthermore, Myakka City residents will pay lower fire taxes, and firefighters will see pay raises and increased benefits.
“I think the community is going to benefit tremendously from this merger that's going to be taking place,” Cacchiotti said. “My wife and I live in this community. My kids live in this community. I wouldn't have promoted this if I didn't think it was going to be in the best interest of the community.”