PALM HARBOR — Craig Maciuba applied to become a volunteer firefighter at Palm Harbor Fire Rescue on his 18th birthday.
For 29 years, he worked his way up in the department. And now, he has achieved its highest position: fire chief.
"When I started as a volunteer, I didn't intend really on making it a career," said Maciuba, 47. "The more I did it, the more I enjoyed it."
Maciuba was appointed Palm Harbor fire chief on Nov. 18, replacing fire Chief James Angle, who retired and is now the program coordinator at St. Petersburg College's fire academy.
Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Maciuba and his family moved to Palm Harbor when he was 16. His father had retired from a police department and "could not take snow anymore," Maciuba said.
Several of his relatives had volunteered for fire departments through the years. So when he turned 18 in 1984, Maciuba decided to volunteer at the Palm Harbor department.
"I enjoyed the camaraderie of the crews and I enjoyed the activities of dealing with whatever emergency there was," he said. "Pretty quickly, I knew I wanted to go to the fire academy."
In April 1986, the department hired him as a full-time firefighter. He rose through the ranks, most recently becoming deputy chief of operations in 2005. He also got a bachelor's degree in public safety administration from St. Petersburg College, completed the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program, and has co-authored a firefighting textbook.
Maciuba, an avid golfer outside his firefighting duties, has family ties to the department. His brother, Keith Maciuba, is a lieutenant on the hazardous materials team. Maciuba also met his wife, who worked as an administrative assistant, at the department. They have been married 26 years and have two children, a 22-year-old son and a 25-year-old daughter, as well as a 4-year-old granddaughter.
Maciuba said he doesn't plan to make any immediate changes at the department, but he and several staff recently met to discuss "strategic planning" options. The information discussed at the meeting and in an online survey completed by many employees will be presented to the Palm Harbor Fire Commission in December.
District Chief Dan Zinge remembers working alongside Maciuba when they were young firefighters and later as lieutenants working the same shift.
Maciuba has often shown up to fire calls while off-duty, he said.
"He leads by example," Zinge said. "He demands a lot of himself and he demands a lot of the people. He has always been a very approachable person."
When a massive blaze erupted at the Harbor Club Downs apartments along Alt. U.S. 19 in 2009, Zinge said Maciuba arrived quickly and took control. The four-alarm fire displaced more than a dozen residents.
"He works as a very hands-on supervisor," Zinge said. "Allows people to do their job."
Contact Laura C. Morel at email@example.com or (727) 445-4157.