IMMOKALEE — James Eidel, a lieutenant/EMT with the Immokalee Fire Department, was born in Long Branch, N.J., and later moved to Venice with his family, where he graduated from Venice High School in 2002. At the end of his senior year of high school, he started volunteering with the Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department in Sarasota County.
“That’s when I fell in love with the job and realized this is what I wanted to pursue as a career,” he said.
Eidel then began pursuing his EMT and fire certifications. In 2005 he relocated to Naples, where he finished his Fire 2 certification at the North Naples Fire Academy in 2006-07.
In 2008 he was introduced to the town of Immokalee and began volunteering with the Immokalee Fire Department.
“I immediately fell in love with the small yet diverse communities of Immokalee and Ave Maria. I was later hired on as a paid full-time fireman in 2009 where I’ve had the honor and privilege to serve these two unique communities for the past 12 years,” Eidel said.
When asked about a memorable role or experience in being a first responder, he said: “While there are so many, a couple of incidents that I’ll always remember come to mind. One was a residential structure fire on the anniversary date of 9/11 in 2017, right after Hurricane Irma. It was my first structure fire as a lieutenant, and after a long, tiring day, we were the first engine on scene and were able to make a quick, aggressive attack on the fire after overcoming debris and flooding from the storm to access the structure. We were able to make a quick and significant stop to the fire progression. I was proud of the quick and professional teamwork displayed by my crew,” Eidel said.
Another was when the Immokalee Department was part of the Collier County strike team that was deployed to Florida’s Panhandle to assist with the communities that were impacted by Hurricane Michael. “It was an unforgettable experience seeing all the departments and agencies unite together to help the communities in need. The experience and bonds we made brought my crew that much closer together. It was a true testimony to the brotherhood of the fire service.”
Eidel is certified with an operations level in all the Urban Search & Rescue disciplines, and he has a technician level in Confined Space Rescue, Trench Rescue and Vehicle & Machinery Extrication Rescue. He is also a CPR instructor.
“The most rewarding part of this job is the fact that we have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives for the better, whether it be very small or life-changing,” he said.
“Some important skills required to be a firefighter are good decision-making skills, communication, adaptability, physical strength and stamina, being a team player and old-fashioned common sense. For any young people looking into entering the public safety field ,I would recommend that after you receive your education, to volunteer with a department first to gain some experience and see if this job is for you. Training is a very important component of this job. We must train often to ensure we are always ready to perform to the highest standards when the alarm calls. Once you get on the job, listen to your senior men, learn something new every shift, never get complacent and work toward mastering your craft,” Eidel added.
Eidel has earned several awards throughout the years, including a Phoenix Award, Officer of the Year, a stork award (part of a crew that assisted with delivering a baby in the field), two unit citations and several disaster responses ribbons.
“My favorite part of the job is the brotherhood and camaraderie among the guys. I’ve been happily married for 13 years and have three boys ages 8, 5 and 1 and a baby girl on the way due this December,” he added.