PublicationailyNews; Date:Saturday, October 11, 2003 ; Section:Local and State; Page:13


Firefighters respond to four-alarm barbecue


• Ruth Ann, John Carroll hold lunch for department that has helped them on four occasions.



By JEFF AYRES Daily News Staff Writer

NICEVILLE — The only fire that firefighters were putting out here late Friday morning was in their mouths. The Niceville Fire Department received a thank you barbecue lunch from Ruth Ann and John Carroll, a Niceville couple who were helped through some turbulent times in the past couple of years by the city’s firefighters.

"They’re very professional, very caring, very careful, very gentle," said Ruth Ann. "They’re focused on my personal well-being. We have benefited from them far more than a lot of people in this town."

Addressing the firefighters, she joked, "I hope to never see you again."

"Wonderful" and "awesome" were some of the adjectives uttered by firefighters as they chomped on barbecued beef, ribs and sausage supplied by Benny’s Bar-B-Que restaurant.

"I’m going to have to take me a nap," said Niceville Fire Chief Mike Wright, patting his stomach after finishing the hearty meal.

The firefighters have helped the Carrolls through some volatile situations, most recently last month, when Ruth Ann’s vehicle was knocked into a telephone pole on Forest Road after being rear-ended by another vehicle.

She suffered a punctured lung in the incident.

There was last December, when Ruth Ann fell from a chair in her garage and struck her head on the ground. She suffered a concussion.

She was painting a cow that was to go on a float in Niceville’s annual Christmas parade. The float, Ruth Ann noted, went on to win first prize in a competition.

There was the time in December 2001 when she collapsed after gas leaked into her home.

John was in the basement doing some work when he noticed one of his dogs seemed sick. He went upstairs and found his wife unconscious in the kitchen.

He brought Ruth Ann outside, and firefighters opened up doors and windows to blow the rest of the gas out.

"I was in bad shape, and I figure those guys saved my life twice," Ruth Ann said.

Earlier in 2001, they rushed John to a hospital after he experienced chest pain and dizziness. In each instance, he said, the Niceville Fire Department was the model of professionalism and top-flight service.

"Looking back, they were the best I’ve ever seen," John said.

That’s why the Carrolls wanted to honor the Niceville department with a top-flight meal. They chose Friday because it was part of National Fire Prevention Week.

The firefighters got a close brush with the reality of their jobs during the lunch. An alarm sounded in the firehouse, and the firefighters began racing toward their trucks.

"Disregard tones," a voice said over an intercom. With that, the mood returned to one of good times and good food.

Wright said it’s not unusual for residents to stop by the fire station bearing gifts, adding it’s a great perk in an unpredictable job.

"They’ll bring by cookies, cakes, fruit baskets. We get invited to (community) breakfasts," he said.

"It takes something special to be firefighters," Ruth Ann added. "They put their lives on the line. They really care."


• Staff Writer Jeff Ayres can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 444, or [email protected]