Captain Dennis DeSalvo has been at Station 23 for only six months, but his career in Pasco County spans 17 years of service.
DeSalvo was at Station 12 in Holiday for the bulk of his career, much of the time as a Firefighter/Paramedic. He worked at Station 32 in Dade City and Station 26 in Wesley Chapel. He spent the last six years working at Station 17 in Seven Springs before moving to Station 23, right here in Land O' Lakes, just east of the intersection of US Highway 41 and State Road 54.
DeSalvo became captain in 2004. He was born in the Bronx but grew up in Queens. He lived a while outside the city in Nassau County before moving to Tampa in 1992. By the end of 1995, he had picked up full time work with the the fire department. The opportunity might not have ever been realized unless DeSalvo's uncle Wally, a retired New York firefighter, planted the seed, and helped DeSalvo get started.
Patch: Describe one of your most harrowing experiences on the job.
DeSalvo: I guess this would be about two years ago, summer, when I was working at Station 17. A guy had barricaded himself inside his house and set it on fire. SWAT was in there ahead of us to try and get the guy cleared out. SWAT gets the guy out, we go in, start fighting the fire. We want to get a second team in through the garage door but there's a car blocking it from the outside. It wasn't one of those kind that just roll up, it was one that swung out to open. So we decided to use a K12 saw and cut the bottom half of the door off. The garage had a lot of the fire in it. We cut through it, were good to go and there's still one piece of metal still hanging there. I tell the guy with the saw to cut it and before I know it, this metal piece comes flying up. It came in front of my partner and right in front of my face. One inch could have taken a piece of my face off, an artery. It would have been a severe injury or worse. You realize some things happen for a reason.
Patch: Describe one of your most rewarding experiences on the job.
DeSalvo: This was back at Station 12, wow, probably 14 years ago now. Spring. This elderly gentlemen was having chest pains sitting in his chair. We put him on the monitor and he went into ventricular tachycardia. This is basically when your heart is pumping fast but its not pumping any blood. You can't sustain that very long. We had two options, we could have started giving him meds or cardio version shocks. I saw the guys face and I decided to put the pads on him. After the cardio version and then the meds, the guy stabilized and he was fine all the way to the hospital. Without the training we had, who knows what might have happened to that guy.
Patch: What's the most calls you've answered on a given shift?
DeSalvo: 18, when I was on Rescue 12, 18 calls, one day.
Patch: What do you do to decompress after a shift like that?
DeSalvo: Back then, I'd just go back to work again. Recently, I've been training for triathalons. I've been training for one I did about a week ago. I'm planning to do the Clearwater Marathon.
Patch: If you weren't working as a firefighter, what do you think you would be doing?
DeSalvo: When I retire, I'd like to be a geography teacher at the high school level. I guess I would be doing something like that.