As the East niceville Fire district moved from an all volunteer force to one staffed by full time paid Firefighters, District founder and long time Chairman Michael Marcolongo recalled the Department’s rich history.
The district was created by a voter referendum in June 1976. And “no lives have been lost to fire since the district was formed”. More than 30 years ago some 344 homes and 1,400 parcels of property in the unincorporated east niceville were left with no fire protection when the city of Niceville discontinued answering fire calls outside the city limits.
Two fires helped spark the creation of the East Niceville Fire District. The first occurred in 1973 when a former military barracks that had been moved to 23rd street as a rental property caught fire, the Niceville Volunteer Fire Depart responded to the blaze which was outside the city limits. The city’s fire truck suffered about $3,000 damage, when moss from the surrounding trees caught fire and damaged the fire engine. The fire truck was not covered by insurance because the fire damage occurred out side the city limits. Therefore, the City decided they could longer respond to calls outside the city.
In November 1973, shortly before the city enacted its new policy, the Niceville Volunteer Fire Department responded to a trailer fire across the street from the Marcolongo family, on 23rd street in the unincorporated area. “that scared me” Chairman Marcolongo recalls because the furnace in his own trailer was located between his bedroom and that of his young daughter.
Marcolongo began talking with county officials about providing fire protection for those living in the unincorporated areas. A series of public meeting were held, petition signatures were gathered in a door-to-door drive, and the county commission developed an ordinance to create a fire district. In a referendum in June 1976 voters approved creation of the new fire district and elected five men as fire commissioners, including Marcolongo as vice-chairman, and the late Fred Nilsen as chairman. A deputy sheriff with some fire experience as a firefighter, Bill Welsh, served as the district’s first Fire Chief.
In late 1976, Rocky Bayou developer Walt Ruckel built a steel, 30 by 50 foot fire station on two lots on 27th street and leased the building to the fire district. Ten years later the district purchased the building and property. In February 1977, the volunteer fire department moved into the new station and accepted the districts first fire truck, a 1,000 gallon Pumper truck donated by the Forestry department. The truck had only one hose reel and in return for the truck the district obligated to assist the State Forestry department in fighting wildfires.
The following year the East Niceville bought its first fire truck, a used 1952 Mack Pumper with lots of old equipment for less than $13,000. then in September 1982 the district purchased its first new truck 1000gpm Chevrolet.
In 1990 we enlarged the fire station to accommodate more apparatus and added a 2nd floor for a training facility, now, in 2011 the area is living quarters for the paid personnel. Then in 2001 we enlarged the station again to add offices, men & women’s restrooms, day room, watch room, Kitchen and conference room. Which we named “Marcolongo Fire Hall” in honor of or Chairman Michael Marcolongo for all the hard work and dedication he has provided this district throughout the years.