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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Volunteer fire chief in Marion County retires after 51 years

After over half a century of service, Volunteer Chief Ronald Replogle has retired from being an active volunteer with Marion County Fire Rescue.

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners recognized Replogle for his 51 years of service to MCFR during their regular meeting that was held on Wednesday.

Marion County Fire Rescue Volunteer Chief Ronald Replogle (fourth from right) retires after 51 year career (September 6, 2023)
Newly retired MCFR Volunteer Chief Ronald Replogle (fourth from right) was recognized by Marion County commissioners during their meeting on September 6, 2023

In 1972, Replogle began his service as a volunteer with MCFR, and he held a meeting near what is now 80th Avenue and State Road 40 to brainstorm with other like-minded individuals. After that meeting, they built a fire station on-site and called it Station 201.

The fire station covered over 700 square miles of Marion County.

According to MCFR, the volunteers did not have real fire apparatus during those early days. They ended up utilizing old military vehicles that were loaned to them by Florida Forestry.

Replogle led the effort to get bunker gear for the volunteer firefighters. After securing mix and matched bunker gear, he sought out air packs to use on residential fires.

The volunteers at Station 201 successfully found one air pack, and they were able to share it at fire scenes. If the air pack was used, the volunteers had to take it to the Florida State Fire College to refill the air, according to MCFR.

“As MCFR moved from a loose coalition of volunteer fire departments and districts, [Replogle] was instrumental in making the transition from a volunteer service to a career department,” stated Marion County Fire Rescue in a social media post.

Replogle’s knowledge of the area was utilized to strategically place fire stations across Marion County. He also helped ensure that the volunteers remained an essential part of MCFR as the department transitioned to a combination of career and volunteer firefighters.

Over the past two decades, Replogle willingly responded to calls whether it was day or night. “His love for being a volunteer firefighter fueled his drive and determination,” stated MCFR on its Facebook page.

Marion County Fire Rescue added that Replogle’s accomplishments over the past 51 years have “brought honor not only to himself but also to MCFR’s career and volunteer firefighters.”