Daniel R. Hanes began work as DeLand’s new fire chief April 2.
That was the day an abandoned former internet cafe burned north of DeLand. In the ensuing 30 days, there would be three more major structure fires: at The Lighthouse Church on April 27, the Hotel Putnam on April 29, and a home in Country Club Estates on May 1.
“It made me feel at home,” Hanes said.
Hanes, whose firefighting career has spanned more than three decades and four fire departments, last worked in West Palm Beach. There, he said, four structure fires in a month wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.
“South Florida — every single day, something’s burning down,” Hanes said.
In West Volusia, however, it’s quite unusual.
Although Hanes is not ready to connect the four fires, it’s within the realm of possibility, he said. A dramatic accidental fire like the one at The Lighthouse Church could conceivably ignite the interest of a firebug, Hanes said.
“It’s got my attention right now. I recognize this is extremely unusual for this community,” Hanes said.
The good news is, Hanes has had a better-than-expected opportunity to evaluate the training and skills of the DeLand Fire Department’s 49 employees.
“I’m very pleased,” the chief said. “They’re very, very dedicated and professional.”