Capri Connection: Ag commish honors first responders

Ann Hall, Columnist

Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture hosted a pancake breakfast at Greater Naples Fire/Rescue Headquarters on Friday, May 12 to thank all of the district’s first responders who put their lives in jeopardy to fight the enormous wild fires that have broken out in the state this year. Among the guests were a number of highly recognized dignitaries.

“I am here to thank you and show my support and appreciation for the firefighters and first responders who rise to the occasion when needed,” said Putnam.

“This is an extraordinary fire circumstance, and the fire service personnel you have here are the best in the nation,” said Putnam. He explained that both fire services (structural and land) are all in this together. “You, the National Guard, Highway Patrol, Sheriff’s Department and others are what save lives -- you saved a man trapped in a tractor during one of the most recent wild fires.”

Adam Putnam (center), Florida Commissioner of Agriculture since 2011, expresses his gratitude to the first responders who have spent endless hours fighting a host of wildfires in the State of Florida this year.

“I will always have your backs, and flipping pancakes is a small way to say to you and all of our first responders that we will always have your backs,” said Putnam.

The commissioner complimented Governor Scott and leaders in the legislature for their forward thinking and continuous support. Scott signed an emergency order in mid-April this year due to the dry conditions in the state and the highly volatile conditions for wild fires to break out. Additional resources have been called in and concentrated in the state where fires are most prone to occur, or have already begun. 

“There is no such thing as a normal day in Florida,” said Putnam, as there is always something. Putnam is from Bartow, Florida and is a hunter, fisherman and cattleman.

“I grew up fishing off the Southwest coast of Florida all my life, but I find that during this wildfire season, I am spending more of my time down here lately, but not for recreational reasons.”

The Commissioner of Agriculture is charged with overseeing the Division of Forestry and Consumer Services which includes Fire Services in the state.

“I want to protect all,” said Putnam. “Thanks to the fantastic fire services provided in this great district, the very difficult job is made easier.”

Putnam cited Greater Naples Fire as one of the strongest in the state.

Putnam, who is also running for governor, thanked all of the first responders for what they do.

This young boy is happy to be among the first recipients of a pancake breakfast to honor first responders for their brave and courageous work in wildfire control.

“We are a stronger state because men and women like you run to, not from danger to help no matter what the situation. When you are responding to a victim, it is probably the worst day of their lives.  You are there to treat, comfort, and get them to safety. Thank you for keeping Florida a place where people spend their whole life dreaming of moving to,” said Putnam.

“I am proud of our Greater Naples Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt who has been recognized throughout the country, and our first responders,” said Deputy Fire Marshall Shar Hingson.

“There are currently 30,000 acres burning in the state near the Georgia/Florida line (the West Mims Fire),” said Alan McLaughlin, Greater Naples Fire Deputy Chief of Logistics.  When asked how most of the fires in the state have begun lately, McLaughlin said “They are labeled as ‘suspicious’ or ‘unknown’ as there has been no lightening to spark one.” McLaughlin told of one fire that consumed nine miles, and if it had not rained, it would have been “big trouble.” McLaughlin recalled the fire of 1985 as one of the largest and worst he had experienced. “That fire burned 12,500 acres and it took three days to contain,” said McLaughlin. 

There have been 1, 946 wildfires this year between January 1 and May 7, according to the Florida Forrest Service.  Currently there are 142 active blazes. To follow updates on wildfires in the area, you can log on to

“We all know of the effort that is put forth for wild fires in Collier County,” said Chief Kingman Schuldt.  “If it weren’t for the efforts of our legislators and their leadership, and the dedicated first responders such as you (fire fighters and emergency services staff), Florida Forrest Service fellows in green backs, our State Senator Kathleen Passidomo on the ground calling up the resources needed and the attention of the street-level up personnel on a daily basis, everyone working together,” we would not be the great state that we are,” said Schuldt.

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