Friday, March 5, 2021

Fire Service Is About Family 

On Duty

Photo by Frank Steiger

Hafid Oliver, 42 


HazMat Tech, Rescue Diver, Acting Engineer 

5 years ago, I met Hafid Oliver at Station 50 around the dinner table. Hafid was watching a video of his daughters singing the anthem, “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. While the other guys chuckled, Hafid shrugged his shoulders easily and smiled, “I can recite every word of this movie. 

As the father of three girls, Hafid knows a lot about Princesses, Pop Stars, LOL dolls, and anything pink. He also knows what a special place Marco Island is to raise a family. Hafid and his wife, Christy, each vacationed here as children, and fell in love with the beauty and peace of the island. When a position opened up at Marco Island FireRescue Department in 2010, Hafid jumped at the opportunity.  

“It sounds cliché, but I love helping people,” says Hafid. “I originally earned my Bachelor’s in Psychology, and I worked with dual-diagnosis patients struggling with mental health issues and addiction.” But Hafid became more interested in the medical side of patient care through his wife Christy’s work at Miami Children’s Hospital. Hearing about her cases, Hafid decided to become a Paramedic and then a Firefighter, first working in Dade County before moving to Marco.  

Hafid’s background in psychology has been critical in helping both patients and other firefighters with stressful situations. I truly admire Hafid because he represents what the fire service is aboutfamily. He is involved in the community, with his children, his lovely wife, in his church, and in giving back to our hometown,” stated Chief Murphy.  

The mix of medical and fire calls on Marco Island suits Hafid just fine. Coming from Miami where most departments handle both EMS and Fire, Hafid is well-versed in Paramedicine and takes each call as it comes. “Of course, we all love going into a fire. But being there for our community in any capacity is great. We all have families here, and we try to treat everyone like family.”  

Hafid’s easy-going, positive attitude is infectious. During the interview, the other members of C shift made sure to give him a hard time when he couldn’t name one challenging thing about the job. Running calls all night? “It happens.” Writing reports? “It’s just paperwork.” Difficult situations? “I don’t take them home.” Season traffic? “Ok, well maybe getting around the cars,” he finally admits with a laugh. “He’s always a tank half-full kind of guy,” points out fellow firefighter Juan Cabezas, smiling and rolling his eyes.  

Today, they are at Station 51, recently rebuilt after a lightning strike caused a fire while all of the units were out on rescues. To have a fire station catch fire is the ultimate irony, but the new station is a source of pride for the members of MIFD, especially as it helps them grow with the population and call volume on Marco Island. It’s also the home to Boat 50, Marco Island’s Fire/Rescue boat that runs more than 100 marine calls per year and is present for many local events. And like many of his fellow firefighters, Hafid loves being on the water. 

“I’m trained as a rescue diver for the department,” shares Hafid, “and some of our most memorable rescues have been MERT calls.” MERT stands for Marine Emergency Response Team and is the name attached to all marine 911 calls. One that sticks out in his mind is a call made from a family whose boat overturned 25 miles offshore. The crew arrived after dark and was able to locate everyone and get them out of the water. “Those are the best days,” says Hafid. 

On his off days, Hafid loves to fish. However, he has yet to convince his family of the merits of this peaceful activity. Instead, he usually ends up crisscrossing the waters in his boat, pulling the girls behind on an inner tube and smiling when they shriek in delight. 

“I’m lucky,” he reflects. “I have a great family. And not just at home, but here at work too.”  

As we were finishing the interview, the tones rang through the station signaling a call. I had one more question, “What’s on your music playlist these days?” I asked.  

He grinned and replied, “Frozen 2 soundtrack, of course. 


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