Destin Fire Department hires new recruits

Savannah Chastain
New Destin fire fighters Matt Winkler and Kevin MacDonald stand in Destin Station 9.

Destin has added two fresh faces to the Fire Department with Kevin MacDonald and Matt Winkler joining the ranks. Both men are locals to the area with McDonald hailing from Santa Rosa Beach and Winkler from Destin.  

“I’m very excited to be here in Destin,” said MacDonald. “This is the main place that I wanted to be when I came out of Florida State Fire Academy.”

MacDonald has been serving in Niceville’s fire department for the past five and a half years, and said he’s been waiting for an opportunity to transfer to Destin.

“I heard that an opening came up here and I jumped at the opportunity. I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

As for Winkler, this will be his first station, although he has being working alongside firemen for three years in South Walton’s water rescue team.

“I’m just thankful that I was picked up by such a great department right out of school,” said Winkler. “It’s going to set me up for a great career and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Winkler told The Log that he chose the fire fighting career field as a way to serve his hometown.

“It’s a way to give back to the community I grew up in,” said Winkler. “You don’t know from day to day what you are going to see or do.”

For MacDonald, he told The Log that the career field almost chose him.

“I chose fire fighting because of my family,” said MacDonald. “My grandfather started the first fire station where I live. My uncles were all fire fighters and my dad was a fire fighter.” 

When asked what they like most about the job both men agreed it’s a two part deal; the thrill of the unknown and the satisfaction gained through successful rescues.

“It’s really the unknowns of it,” said MacDonald. “Getting a call and having to figure everything out when you get there. You just can’t plan for every emergency; you have to think outside of the box. You do what you need to do to save someone that’s what I like about it.”

“I agree,” said Winkler. “It’s that adrenaline rush, and the look on someone’s face when they needed help and you could be there when they needed it.”

Destin Fire Fighters have the option to become EMT certified, most seeing it as a perk not only for themselves but for those they serve. The two new recruits also see the training benefit as MacDonald has already gained his certification and Winkler is in the process of achieving his.

“Without training some people would not have a chance,” said MacDonald. “But with the skills I have as an EMT I can help them and the ones that come through, they are very thankful.”

“I haven’t gotten to see as much yet,” said Winkler, “But we do a lot of training here and do whatever it takes to stay on our toes.”

In their free time both men stay quite active with second jobs and community volunteering.

“During the summer months I rent wave runners and beach chairs, and during the winter and into spring my brother-in-law owns a catering company which I work in as a chef,” said MacDonald. “I’m also head softball coach for Seaside Neighborhood School so I stay busy,” he laughed.

Winkler is similarly involved in community activities.

“I work the beach for South Walton as a lifeguard over the summer,” he said. “I pick up odd jobs here and there and in the winter I help my dad coach wrestling.”