TREASURE ISLAND — The city will bid a formal goodbye to fire Chief Charlie Fant at 2 p.m. Tuesday during a community retirement reception at City Hall.
Fant joined the city Fire Department as a volunteer in 1970 while still in high school.
Ten years later, he became fire chief.
The habit he enjoyed as a teenager, "chasing fire trucks," will be the hardest to give up, Fant says, as he approaches his official retirement on Jan. 3.
During his tenure, he developed a hurricane disaster plan for the city, instituted a key box system for emergency access to condominiums and high-rise buildings, trained the county's first paramedics in advanced life support, and served briefly in the 1990s as interim city manager.
One of his most memorable events while leading the department was the rescue of four Canadian tourists whose car got stuck on the old Treasure Island drawbridge. The tourists found themselves suspended on the edge of one span, dangling over the Intracoastal Waterway.
"The front wheels of their car were hooked over the edge of the span, so when the bridge went up, so did their car," Fant recalls.
Fant received community service awards as a firefighter, fire chief and president of the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association, as well as numerous county, state and national awards and commendations.
Two years ago, Fant was picked to help Madeira Beach pick its new fire chief. That chief, Bill Mallory, will now become Treasure Island's fire chief next month.
"I interviewed my successor without even knowing it," Fant says.