Longboat Key Fire Chief Paul Dezzi spent Wednesday morning recognizing the efforts of members of his department at the third annual Fire Rescue award ceremony.
Firefighter-paramedic Chase Bullock said he was “stunned” to have won the department’s Employee of the Year award.
“It felt amazing,” Bullock said. “You don’t want to hope for something as significant as firefighter of the year because then you get let down when you don’t get it, and this was a total blindside and I didn’t see it coming at all.
"It was just an incredible feeling.”
Bullock has spent nearly five years with the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department. Dezzi explained part of the reason Bullock got honored.
“Chase was watching the news, and he noticed that there was a woman that was missing out of Manatee County, and because of his awareness, he went ahead and made notification to the police department and the police department went out and were able to get this woman back to her home,” Dezzi said.
Bullock said he helped find the missing woman in June. He is also in the process of getting his prerequisites to become a psychiatric nurse.
“I felt terrible because then I thought she must be scared,” Bullock said. “We ended up going to a call where they said there was a suspicious person and the people there were annoyed, they were like, ‘She’s drunk. Get her out of here.’
“They wanted the cops involved and everything. I’m looking at her. I’m like, ‘She doesn’t look drunk.’ I could tell she had the symptoms or the signs of anxiety and stuff…I looked at her and I’m like, ‘I know this lady from somewhere,’ and it clicked. And then, we called the cops and they found out it was the missing lady.”
In the course of the last year or so, Bullock said he has lost 50 pounds and 10% body fat as part of the department’s fitness challenge.
“I just never thought I was going to be the guy that was holding people back,” Bullock said. “I wanted to be the guy that carried people out, so that motivated me to lose the weight and get in shape.”
Bullock also became a boat captain by attending sea school.
In September, Bullock helped rescue a distressed sea turtle subsequently named Pepper. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium doctors helped rehabilitate and release Pepper.
On Wednesday, Dezzi also recognized Town Project Manager Charlie Mopps with the Chief’s Award.
Mopps was responsible for helping oversee the rebuilding of Fire Station 92 at 2162 Gulf of Mexico Drive and the renovation of Fire Station 91 at 5490 Gulf of Mexico Drive. Combined, the construction costs exceeded $5 million.
“Working for the chief, it’s more of a friendship,” Mopps said. “I didn’t need this because the fact that they’re in a better facility is what I’m here for, and that is reward enough.”
The fire rescue department faced the challenge of juggling the improvements to both stations simultaneously while they were also still operating. On the south end, firefighters used a temporary trailer from June 2020 until August 2021, when the new station opened.
“Charlie is one of those guys that he is all over the place in this town,” Dezzi said. “With the fire stations, I could not have asked for a better person to work with on this. Really, I’m serious.”