30 GASPARILLA ISLAND September/October 2018
month for his efforts, and volunteer firefighters were
paid .50 for every drill they attended and $1 per fire.
In 1943 a Notice of Intention was filed to apply
for local or special law to grant the island a permanent
fire control district on Gasparilla Island, and for
the appointment of a fire board.
On May 24, 1943 the Boca Grande Fire Protection
District was officially created. At that time the list of
officers and firefighters included Chief Wiley Crews,
First Asst. Chief T.R. Hargis, Second Asst. Chief Louie
Lanzl, Third Asst. Chief C.D. Van Vleet, Secretary and
Treasurer R.C. Kuhl, FF D.O. Fugate, FF B.O. Bylaska,
FF Richard Bowden, FF Arthur Smith, FF William
Langford, FF Joe Harrison, FF A.W. Willis, FF William
Hunter and FF Austin Bass.
In 1946 two lots were purchased from Troy Speer
for $1,000, and the construction of a fire station in
the middle of town began in 1947.
As the tone and residents of the island began to
change, so did the fire department. It increased in
size to accommodate an increase in population, and
more innovative equipment was being used to
efficiently fight fires in very expensive homes. In 1979
their fire protection district also grew to include the
Charlotte County tip of Gasparilla Island and Cole
On December 31, 1941 Gov. Spessard Holland
wrote back, saying, “Upon notification of your
selection as Chairman of the Division of Water
Supply and Fire Protection for the Boca Grande
Defense Council, I am pleased to designate you
for this office.”
He was speaking to Wiley Crews in the letter,
who became fire chief of Boca Grande until
Darrell Polk took the job as fire chief in 1956,
when Darrell was just 26 years old.
By August of 1942 the first proper year of
firefighting on the island was half done, and the
allocated budget for the department requested
through Lee County Commissioner Harry
Stringfellow was for $1,600. That included
insurance costs of $248, gas/oil/maintenance
costs of $200, salaries and wages in the amount
of $600, postage and stationery costs of $35 and
equipment costs of $716.
The island was divided into four districts. When
there was a call in Zone 1 the fire siren would
sound one long blast. Zone 2 got two blasts, and
so on. With 12 men responding to most of the
calls, it gave them a general idea of where to head
once the sirens went off.
Back then the fire chief received $12.50 a
Another one of the island’s first fire trucks,
make unknown, parked by the Bayou.