Community Spotlight: Fire Chief Michael Regnier

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Enjoying the arrival of lucky Fire Station No. 13

Q: Please share a bit about your career path that took you to your position as Sarasota County’s fire chief, including some details about your time on Siesta Key.
A: My career started in the city of Sarasota when the city had its own fire department. Prior to the merging of the county and city fire departments, I knew I wanted to be in a leadership role and with the merger came opportunity for promotion through the ranks.
My first promotion was that of lieutenant in charge of a single fire station, and I was assigned to Station 13 on Siesta Key. I found it was a great area and the people were terrific. The atmosphere on Siesta Key was inviting to residents and visitors, and I was grateful to serve there for 12 months.
I was then promoted to battalion chief, which is responsible for overseeing multiple fire stations throughout Sarasota County. From there I became an assistant chief of operations and ultimately the fire chief of the Sarasota County Fire Department.

The chief addresses an audience during the July 9 opening ceremony for new Fire Station 13 on Siesta Key. (courtesy of Sarasota County)

Q: The new Fire Station 13 on Siesta Key brings obvious benefits, including modernization, more space, and hurricane resistance. Now that you’ve been in it a few months, what are some of the not-so-obvious benefits you and your crew have discovered?
A: The benefits are the functionality of the station. Personnel were accustomed to a smaller space that was built in the 1970s for two firefighters. Currently four to five personnel are assigned there per shift. The new station is well-built and requires less maintenance. We could not be happier with the design and construction.

Q: You host a YouTube tour of the station. Can people get an in-person look at it?
A: Our personnel are assigned to the station 24/7 and, depending on availability, may be able to provide a tour if someone wanted to see the station in person. Note that if you do request a tour, crews may receive an emergency call or be scheduled for training. The station belongs to the community and we are happy to show it off.
(If interested in a tour, call (941) 861-5000.)

Q: The new roundabout at Midnight Pass Road and Beach Road will be near your entrance. Do you see this as helpful or a hindrance? And why?
A: The roundabout that is scheduled to be built will be a benefit to our ability to respond. The reason is that with a roundabout, traffic will continuously move through the roundabout, albeit at a slower speed. We anticipate the roundabout will help improve response times by reducing the traffic stopped at the light in front of the station. SCFD personnel regularly navigate roundabouts while responding to calls throughout Sarasota County. Motorists can help keep our first responders safe on the roads by remembering to slow down and move over when they see any emergency vehicle with lights on.

Q: Siesta Key has its share of short-term rentals owned by out-of-town entities. Are you concerned that some are not in compliance with fire code? And if so, what should be done?
A: SCFD works hard to provide the best service to our community with the resources we have. If we are made aware of a business that is out of compliance with fire code, we notify our fire prevention division and provide a fire inspection to bring the business into compliance.
Our top priority is to ensure the safety of the residents and visitors to Sarasota County. Having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is an important piece of prevention. Batteries in these devices should be changed at least twice a year – an easy reminder is to change the batteries at the beginning and end of daylight saving time. Such alarms should also be replaced every 10 years.
There will be friendly reminders of this posted to the Sarasota County Emergency Services Facebook and Twitter pages around daylight saving time (we fall back on Nov. 7).

Chief Regnier discusses the station’s fire pole during a video tour.

Q: The new station features the traditional fire pole which allows personnel to slide downward from the first floor. Is it a nostalgic nod to old-school firehouses or does to still serve a critical purpose?
A: Fire Station 13 is a two-story fire station. This configuration was determined to be the best fit on the existing property. The station is equipped with an elevator, stairwells and of course the fire pole. The fire pole serves a critical purpose in the timely response to emergency calls. If the fire pole was not in place, the firefighters would have to use the elevator or stairwells which would add time to our response.

Siesta Sand
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