NAPLES, Fla.- Nearly three decades ago, a child narrowly escaped death after losing his entire family to a house fire. That child once pulled from the flames has now become the City of Naples’ newest fire chief.
“My mother, my brother, my sister and grandfather all lost their lives in the fire,” said Chief Pete DiMaria who was just 11 years old at the time.
“I can only tell you from the stories that I’ve heard and read that an off-duty police officer was walking his dog early in the morning and he saw the house on fire. Got in the front door and could only make it in a few feet, but in that few feet, he stumbled over my arm and was able to pull me out.”
With few pictures left of his family, there is one DiMaria cherishes though it too was damaged in the fire.
“Growing up from that point, it was always something that stuck with me. When I had the opportunity to get into the fire academy, I jumped into that.”
That was nearly 27 years ago.
“I started here in Naples and worked my way up through the ranks,” said DiMaria who turned his tragedy into a passion.
“It means a great deal, it really does. It means I can give this community the passion I have for fire safety and the fire service and hopefully make this one of the safest communities in Florida.”
As the new chief, DiMaria is working on an outreach program, including free classes for CPR and AED training.
DiMaria also asks residents to practice in case of a fire ever breaking out in there home, and that starts with making sure the houses have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“It’s important to me so and it’s important to our personnel. They’re buying in and they’re working hard to make sure we accomplish this.”
Focusing on rebuilding Fire Station #1, which a consultant found to hold safety concerns, is another big project on DiMaria’s radar.