- September 6, 2022
Two promotions and a new hire are aimed to help East Manatee Fire Rescue keep up with a quickly growing region.
During a July 25 meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners, the rescue announced the addition of Fire Inspector Joe Silva, as well as the promotion of Craig Madsen to battalion chief and Paul Wren to deputy chief of administration.
“Our department is growing incredibly fast,” Wren said. “It’s going hand in hand with the growth out here in the Lakewood Ranch area and the East County area as a whole.”
After managing a crew, serving as a training officer, and performing administrative functions for the Venice Fire Department, Joe Silva was hired in July by East Manatee Fire Rescue.
Silva said he was very interested in taking over the role as fire inspector.
“This is just one field where I wanted to continue my career,” he said. “I’m not the young buck any longer, so crawling on my knees and dragging hose isn't really in my future. I enjoy interacting with people, and helping people to the best of my ability, and this gives me that opportunity to continue.”
Silva said his newly created role will join with two other fire inspectors, one of which serves primarily new construction, and the other which provides inspections of older buildings, as Silva will do. Silva said he is performing annual inspections, and re-inspections of buildings that have seen a change in function, such as if a convenience store is changed to a church.
He said educating the public is important to his role. He said, generally, business owners do not know what fire codes are in place. He said he will explain topics such as how smoke alarms must be located both inside and outside of bedrooms, or how sprinkler heads must be placed at the required distance from new walls added within a building, as well as the rationales behind all rules.
He said that he hopes “to rise in the ranks as much as the organization allows,” and is interested in eventually becoming a fire marshal, which is able to review plans and perform investigations of fires.
Craig Madsen is no longer riding on the fire truck, but he still arrives at the scene.
Promoted from a captain to a battalion chief, he now brings his field experience, which began in 2010, to managing the actions of firefighters within his battalion zone.
“You're making those decisions, whether we're going inside a fire, or pulling out, or whatever the case may be,” he said. “It can be stressful, but it's also rewarding, and it plays a vital role in how the scene plays out.”
He said prior to the Myakka City Fire Control District merger, there had been one battalion chief running the rescue’s six stations, but as the number began to grow toward the current total of 10, it became apparent another would be needed.
While he had hoped to become a battalion chief, he credited his success to his mentors and past deployments.
He called his two hurricane deployments, Hurricane Irma (2016) in the panhandle and Hurricane Michael (2017) in Collier County, "eye-opening."
“You're faced with a lot of challenging calls and some pretty stressful situations,” he said. “So, I think it definitely helped mold me into a better officer.”
He described the scene of Hurricane Michael as involving “really nice homes that were two or three stories up, on stilts, just completely washed away” as well as “cars up in trees.” He said after observing the documentation procedures of the battalion chief, he will now know what to expect in the case that Lakewood Ranch is impacted by a hurricane.
Madsen was one of the crew members responding to a 47-car pileup on I-75 near the University Parkway interchange in 2012.
“It was literally something that you would see in the movies — just the amount of cars, the amount of damage to passenger vehicles, to semi trucks, to other commercial vehicles on their sides. It was a mixture of everything,” he said.
He said numerous fire departments were present including South Manatee Fire Rescue and the Sarasota County Fire Department.
“You would have thought that we'd worked together every single day, and I felt like the scene operated very effectively and efficiently,” he said.
He said he learned essential lessons about communication that will be vital in his new role.
Paul Wren was promoted from battalion chief to deputy chief of administration. He said in many ways his role is not so different from the one he previously held.
Currently, he no longer works in the fire stations on a 24-hours-on, 48-hours-off schedule, but works more regular hours in the administration building, assisting Chief Lee Whitehurst with running the entire department in areas that include finance, logistics, and fire prevention.
Nonetheless, he called his former role of battalion chief a go-between position that gave him experience both in administrative duties, and in operational ones related to work in the field.
He said one of his proudest achievements was a five-year plan he created for the direction of his technical rescue team. Madsen is also commander of that team, which performs rescues in confined spaces.
Also building him for new responsibilities was a four-year term as president of the union, during which he helped negotiate contracts with the fire chief.
However, he said field experience is essential to filling an administrative capacity.
“Our mission is to be able to supply the manpower, the equipment, and the training expertise to respond to 911 calls,” he said.
Wren said his experience leading a team during Hurricane Michael was also an extremely formative experience. Wren was deployed to Cape San Blas in South Gulf County, where he said the volunteer fire departments in the area were overwhelmed and East Manatee Fire Rescue was given access to those departments' personnel and equipment.
“The confidence that you get from operating in a true disaster zone like that, when you come back to civilization, so to speak, you almost feel like it's too easy,” Wren said. “So definitely it was a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even though it did stress my family out a lot.”
He said he is still gaining a handle on his new responsibilities.
“There's a whole long list of things that have to take place in order for the guys to be able to do what we're here to do, which is ultimately respond to emergencies and to serve the community,” he said. “My eyes have been opened to all that it takes, and it’s a lot.”