LUTZ — Lance Bartlett and some friends camped inside Fire Station 24 when it first opened more than 30 years ago.
Bartlett played in a park across the street with his friends. When the bell sounded, he helped push-start "Suzy," the orange grove truck converted to a pumper long employed by the Lutz volunteer firefighters.
It was Leslie "Uncle Pete" Dennison who helped get Bartlett, a captain and 32-year veteran with Pasco Fire Rescue, his start.
"They had to let us volunteer because we were going to be hanging out anyway," Bartlett said.
Dennison, who had battled diabetes and skin cancer, died in January of complications from antibiotic treatment. This week, Hillsborough County renamed Fire Station 24 in his honor.
Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Nesmith were among more than 100 friends, relatives, neighbors and firefighters at the Monday morning ceremony in a truck bay at the station.
A new bronze plaque and an aged picture of Dennison were positioned at opposite sides of the podium.
Being one of the first to stay at the station when it was first built, Bartlett described coming to the dedication as "full circle."
Nesmith said it was fitting to name the station for Dennison, someone who helped get so many firefighters their start.
"He touched a lot of people," Nesmith said. He said it was even rarer to see a volunteer put in the service Dennison did.
Dennison joined the force in 1973 after his own house caught fire. He served as chief and as president of the fire association. He was Lutz guv'na in 1993.
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 269-5314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.