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East Manatee fire departments aim for seamless transition

Commission approves East Manatee Fire Rescue's takeover of the Myakka City Fire Control District.

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  • | 1:20 p.m. September 22, 2021
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After the Manatee County Commission gave its final approval Sept. 14 to East Manatee Fire Rescue absorbing the Myakka City Fire Control District, the latter will cease to exist Oct. 1.

Lee Whitehurst, East Manatee's fire chief, and Danny Cacchiotti, the Myakka City chief, say they have been planning for months so Myakka City residents won't noticed any change in service.

Employees of both districts have spent time working at both the Myakka City and East County stations.

“Between now and then, it’ll be more of an operational game plan on how to reassign and start mixing our crews going forward. That includes the volunteers that we have,” Whitehurst said.

East Manatee has had volunteer firefighters in its past, including Whitehurst. He said a committee has been working over the last three months to absorb and accept the Myakka City volunteers. Everything will culminate with a meeting of the remaining volunteers to assist them with the transition.

“We’re accepting their volunteers and we’re going to run a year with that process until we’ve got our heads wrapped around everything,” Whitehurst said. “Then we’ll open things up and start doing some recruiting.”

Current Myakka City firefighters will be a boost in salary and benefits due to the merger.

“The pay scale is different and the benefits are (better) with us, so they’ll see an improvement on that side of things,” Whitehurst said. “In the end, they’ll probably have to work less hours, too. They had to work a lot of hours because (Myakka City was short of manpower). Now all they’ll have to do is work their shift. They won’t have to come back and work extra. With our resources, it’ll balance out.”

Plans call for the replacement of one Myakka City fire engine. Some older equipment that has been loaned to Myakka will be returned to the Division of Forestry. East Manatee has a pair of tankers, eliminating the need to carry over an older tanker from Myakka City.

“By combining all of these resources, we’re able to do things for less,” Whitehurst said. "They don’t need as many reserves or as many engines as they used to have because we’ve already got them. They’ve already been placed into the pecking order ."

Whitehurst said the design of a new fire station in Myakka City will begin next year.

“We’ve been building fire stations around East Manatee, and now it’s their turn,” Whitehurst said.

Cacchiotti has been in the area 38 years and said the fire department developed into a big part of his life. He started with the department as a volunteer firefighter and spent his career with the district. Cacchiotti is retiring Oct. 1.

“I realize that moving forward and doing the right thing for the community sometimes involves making sacrifices,” he said. “This merger is best for the citizens of our community and it’s good for our firefighters.”

Myakka City Fire chairman Charley Matson heaped praise on Cacchiotti’s leadership over the years and expressed gratitude toward Mosaic for its donation of a $500,000 fire engine that will remain in use after the merger.

“(Cacchiotti's) leadership is what made our fire department what it is today,” Matson said. “It’s one we’re proud of, and one we’re proud to turn over to East Manatee. I’m confident the residents of Myakka City will be well-served under the direction of Chief Whitehurst in the future.”

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said the two fire districts have become a family over the years.

“I’ve had the honor of working with both of these districts for the last nine years,” she said. “I’ve never seen a better group of men and women than I’ve seen in the Myakka City Fire District and East Manatee Fire Rescue. We’re starting a new chapter and it’s nice to see that the Myakka City firefighters aren’t going anywhere.”


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