Murfreesboro Fire Rescue Captain John Avaritt retired January 1 with 29 years of service.
Avaritt began his career with the department as a Dispatcher in November 1987. Avaritt says he was inspired to join the department, when then Firefighter Mark McCluskey visited the IGA grocery store where Avaritt worked and talked about what a great job he had. “Mark told me he thought I would fit in,” Avaritt said. “I also had encouragement from Larry Bratcher, who was a member of MFD at the time.”
When Avaritt started as a Dispatcher, he remembers the department did not have any computers. “I had taken some computer classes and Chief Bobby Swann asked if I would be able to work with one if they purchased it.” Avaritt said, “MFD started with one computer and then hired a secretary.” He says one of the biggest changes he has seen over the years is the use of computers and other technology in the fire service. “We now have computers in all the fire stations and on our apparatus,” said Avaritt. “We also use smartphones and GPS units to assist us in finding locations of calls, which improves response times.” Avaritt also notes that computers help save time when communicating with employees.
Reflecting on his 29 years at MFRD, Avaritt remembers discussing with a group of firefighters different calls they had or had not made. “Before the call, I had just made the statement that I had never been to a call with a casualty.” Little did Avaritt know that just two minutes later, he would respond to a fire call involving an individual that had set his home on fire, taken his own life, and left the scene unsafe with gun powder and shells lying around. “This was my most memorable fire call,” he said. “The threat of danger that occurs accidentally is one thing, but when first responders are intentionally targeted, it really makes you think!”
Fortunately, calls like that are not common and over the years Avaritt has experienced more positive than negative. “The people at MFRD are the greatest thing about working here,” said Avaritt. “Young people come in with a desire to learn and help others. It’s a wonderful thing…learning to do our best in a timely manner helps us to more efficiently and effectively save lives and property, which is what the job is all about!”
When asked where he sees the department in the next five to 10 years, Avaritt answered, “Ten years ago, we were just starting to get busy with EMS (medical) calls. EMS and fire working together is a great combination. I see more medical involvement from our fire stations in the community.” He continued, “Murfreesboro’s population has grown from less than 40,000 to well over 100,000 during my time at MFRD. While there will always be a need for our basic service of firefighting, the needs of our citizens in the future will dictate what we will need to learn to help keep them safe and well.”
Avaritt notes that the staff at MFRD have always been very helpful during his career. “From Chief Foulks to our Administrative Support Staff, they are always working to give the firefighters tools to make our jobs easier. The coordination of purchasing great equipment and providing training and other educational opportunities has assisted MFRD with keeping our personnel and the community safe.”
Though he has thoroughly enjoyed his employment and will miss his co-workers, Avaritt says it’s time to focus on family. “I plan to spend more time with my family,” said Avaritt. “My wife Paula has had some health issues, and now that I will be retired, I’ll be able to assist her in building her strength back. I’ll also be able to spend more time with our son, John, who is a freshman at Blackman High School.”
“We congratulate Captain Avaritt on his 29 years of service and wish him a sincerely enjoyable retirement,” said Fire Rescue Chief Mark Foulks. As for Avaritt, he had one final comment, “I want to thank all of those who came before me at MFRD. You left a legacy of pride and family in our profession. God bless you!”
Promotion of New Captain
Engineer Chris Mikolon will replace Captain Avaritt as the new B-Shift Captain at Station 5 on Florence Road. He will assume the role on January 7, but will be formally pinned in a ceremony on a later date.
Mikolon has been with the department since August 2000. Over the years, he has participated in many department activities. He is a former member of MFRD’s National Award-Winning Honor Guard. He also served as a Shift Paramedic Instructor for years.
“We look forward to seeing Mikolon perform in this new role,” said Fire Rescue Chief Mark Foulks. “We have confidence that he will be a great leader for his crew!”
As for Mikolon, he says he is “humbled and excited” about being promoted. “It is an honor and blessing to have worked with so many great people who have helped me reach this point in my career,” he said. “I could not have accomplished it without their help and guidance.”
Mikolon and wife Angela have two children, Sydney (14) and Christian (10).