By LEAH STRATMANN
Prior to the onset of the regular meeting of the South Walton Fire District’s (SWFD) monthly meeting, fire chief Rick Talbert and two of the department’s lifeguards took time out to recognize the achievement of area youngsters who recently completed the Junior Life Guard Program. The program began at the end of June, with 33 participants taking part in the five day a week, five-week program.
The coordinator of the program, Justin Cook, and lead instructor Adam Boyer, along with other professional lifeguards, instructed the boys and girls in many aspects of beach and water safety and a variety of environmental issues. This annual program is designed to introduce young people to safe marine and aquatic recreational opportunities. Further, it is a way to improve young people’s physical conditioning, understanding and respect for the environment, and respect for themselves as well as others, all while having a great time at the beach. The program was conducted at Ed Walline Park.
“It has been a pleasure to teach such a wonderful group of kids, their enthusiasm and energy is contagious. They have all developed and improved so much during this season, and I look forward to their return next year,” said Cook.
Each participant received a certificate of completion presented by Talbert in front of family, friends, and the fire district commissioners. The chief noted communication level was better than last year, with the program having space on Facebook. “This is an important and special program to us. We feel very committed to the program, which enhances beach safety. Adam Boyer and Justin Cook have a passion for what they are doing and some of these kids will be working those lifeguard stands one day. You’ve done us proud,” he said.
After the ceremonies were completed, the regular meeting commenced with the chief reporting a significant increase in call volume to the district in July.
Chairman Maurice Gilbert said, “It is great to see the beach wheelchair program being used as much as it is.” Several months ago, the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) purchased beach wheelchairs for the district to use.
Talbert noted the new fire engine destined for Inlet Beach is due to be delivered soon. The chief noted large crowds are expected for Labor Day, and with Labor Day falling on Sept. 7, the monthly meeting next month will be held on Sept. 14.
Commissioner Jack Abit told the chief, “We are very proud of you for being named Florida Fire Chief of the Year by the Florida Fire Chief Association.”
Talbert said he was humbled beyond words.
Gilbert noted Florida is the fourth-largest state in the U.S. “There are probably more than 1,000 fire stations, so this is a very rare honor. We are indeed very pleased to have this honor for south Walton and the county,” he said.
In other news Gilbert reported there has been some interest in renting the property near CR-393 and U.S. 98 and is expecting a letter of intent from the interested party in the next 30 to 60 days.
As to the proposed development of the property behind where the fire station sits, it was reported mitigation lands have been purchased from M.C. Davis. The Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have accepted development plans.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
By LEAH STRATMANN