In what part of town do you live?
We live in the Redlands.
How long have you lived in the area?
I’ve lived in Miami my whole life, but we’ve lived in the Redlands for 17 years.
What do you enjoy about living in the Redlands?
The peace and quiet. I like all the trees, the farms, the birds, the squirrels – the peacocks. I envision it’s how Miami would have been 50 years ago.
Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been married to Sandra for 17 years. We have two children. I was a medic in the army before I joined the Miami Dade Fire Rescue. I’ve been with this fire department now 27 years, and I currently hold the rank of captain.
When you were a kid, did you want to be a fireman?
You know, I think I did. I always had an attraction with having a fire and I was always attracted by the trucks. I liked being a soldier too, but I wanted to transition from that into the fire department.
What are the responsibilities of a captain?
I’m in charge of my station. I have responsibilities of making sure the supplies are ordered. I have a responsibility to talk to the chief every day to make sure all the things that he wants done get done. The chief is in charge of five stations and I’m in charge of Station 23, which is at 104th street and US1.
Being a fireman, sounds like way more than a job. Is that the way that it feels?
Absolutely. It’s a commitment. It’s a passion, it’s a calling. We work eight to ten days a month, 24 hours at a time, and then one or two days off. The people that you work with are really like a second family. You take care of each other, you do breakfast, lunch, and dinner together when you can – when you’re not running calls. You celebrate weddings, birthdays, just like you would with your other family.
What do you enjoy most about it?
It’s family. And then, I get the adrenaline rush from going inside a fire or saving somebody’s life. It’s a good feeling knowing that you’re helping the community. And, when you bring back somebody’s loved one, that’s the rest of their life that they get to spend with somebody that you brought back.
What surprises you about your role?
There’s a lot of stuff that goes on that the general public doesn’t realize what the fire department does. You never know what your day is going to be. I could run 10 calls a day and they could involve pulling a duck out of a drain to saving somebody from a burning building. Or, you could do nothing all day. We have calls where people are having anxiety and when you arrive you just talk to them. And once they see you, their anxiety level goes down. They’re just so happy to see you. You know, each day is surprising.
Is there anything we, the general public, should know to make your job easier?
No, I don’t think so. Maybe some people overburden the 911 system with something that they could take care of with their general practitioner or urgent care. Like if your leg has been hurting for two weeks, it’s not really a 911 call. That’s something you should call your doctor first.
How is COVID affecting your work?
We’re down approximately 180 people right now on Covid related symptoms and that’s just within Dade County. I was exposed to one of my colleagues two shifts ago who tested positive, and I went today and got tested. I don’t have any symptoms right now, but we’re getting exposed. We’re wearing masks in the station on every single call, but we’re still eating together. So, it’s hard to stay masked up the whole time.
Last week you visited our drive through, what was that like?
It’s one of Sandra’s favorite things to do on the weekend. The rainbow smoothies are the bomb. I mean, after you drink one you feel like you’re healthy and you feel energized. And then the ice cream, my kids love it. I have to stop myself from eating the whole thing.
What restaurants or stores have you all been supporting during the closure?
We’ve been enjoying Bonefish Grill. They’ve been doing great takeout deals. The baja shrimp tacos are awesome. And, Sushi Sake in the Redlands. And then on the weekends, coming to the drive through. The smoothies are so good. And you know, everybody’s cooped up at home with nothing to do. Going to get a smoothie is a good outing, and you don’t have to get out of the car. That’s awesome.
What do you enjoy doing with your kids?
We have a little boat that we take out and we have a camper that we go camping in a couple times a year. And, my son and I like to golf together.
What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
Frankie’s pizza on bird road. It’s a square pizza. They only have one pizza shop and they’ve been in the same location for 50 years
What is a worthy splurge for you?
Those smoothies are kind of a splurge and they’re worthy of it too.
What is a fun rainy day activity for you?
Sitting on the couch, watching History or the Discovery channel.
What community groups are important to you and your family that you might like to promote or share?
Sandra is a member of the Soroptimist group in Homestead. She attends regular meetings and they’ve been helping with the food drives in Homestead. They’re out there loading cars with produce and canned goods. I’m also the executive officer for the Dade County Fireman’s Benevolent Association. We promote brotherhood and comradery in the fire department. We usually do several events throughout the year – bowling, golf, kids’ Christmas parties, and picnics. Right now we’re not doing anything because of Covid.
We always ask if people would like to share a pitch about their business or something they are working on. Is there a pitch that you would like to share?
I do want to. I’ll say this is the best career I can think of and I would hope my son follows in my footsteps. And as of right now, it’s what he wants to do.
Have you been teaching him along the way?
Yes. He hangs around with nothing but other firefighter kids, and he’s also a junior cadet with Miami Dade Fire Department.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
(JN) How many acres do you guys have?
(A+W) Right now, about 160 acres over nine properties.
(JN) Are they all in Homestead?
(A+W) The most northern is at 232nd street and the most southern is in Florida City. The farm Adena grew up on, and where Levi and Sara live now, is on 248th street.
(JN) What types of things are you growing?
(A+W) Tropical fruit and bamboo. The bamboo at the Miami arena came from our farm. We’re known for tropical fruit and turmeric. We grow everything from jackfruit, mamey, sapodilla, starfruit, avocados, mangos, and mulberries to turmeric, ginger, black pepper.
(JN) I always wondered why mulberries are not in the supermarket.
(A+W) Maybe because we usually eat every one that we pick.
Is there a challenge or words of advice that you might like to offer the community?
Early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
(At this point in the conversation, a loud tone is heard in the background. It’s a pleasant sound, not the alarm bell sound from the movies – more like the sound from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’)
(JN) That’s my call. Got to go.