NILAND — To say that Mike Aleksick has some history with the Niland Fire Department would be an understatement.
For starters the veteran firefighter has been chief for the past 22 years and has a storied past with the north Imperial County fire department that would fill volumes of books.
Aleksick spent the past 43 years with the same department and — after a long career in fire protection — is stepping down.
“It’s been 43 years, four months and 13 days,” Aleksick said more precisely Friday. “I’m going to be hanging around and looking to move.”
Aleksick shared some of his memories as he cleared out his office. His last day as Niland fire chief was Friday.
A 1966 graduate of Brawley Union High School, the 63-year-old firefighter said he came on board the Niland Fire Department in 1968 as a volunteer firefighter following a stint as an employee of Southern Pacific Railroad.
Many years later Aleksick ascended to the position of full-time assistant chief, he said, and was tapped to be chief in 1989. The rest, as it is often said, is history.
“It’s more than 15 minutes,” Aleksick jokingly said in reference to artist Andy Warhol’s dictum that in the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.
Among the highlights Aleksick spoke of his time was when in the mid-1990s the Niland Fire Department placed first in the state in advanced emergency medical technician training in Imperial County.
There was also the precarious time in the early 2000s when he was held hostage at gunpoint by a man at the fire station, Aleksick said. The siege ended with the suspect eventually being convicted and sentenced to a 15-year prison term, Aleksick said.
“I can talk my way out of anything,” Aleksick said.
Aleksick also recalled delivering 22 babies during his time as a firefighter. “That’s two babies every two years,” Aleksick calculated.
Niland firefighter Vince Hernandez said he has known Aleksick for the past 15 years and that “he has taught me a lot.” In addition to his fire service, Aleksick was on the Niland Fire District’s governing board for three years, Hernandez said.
“He’s a (good) fire chief,” Hernandez said.
Aleksick is looking forward to enjoying the days ahead of him, he said, and remains optimistic about the future of the fire department in 2012. It’s not certain who will lead the Niland Fire Department, but Aleksick said he believes Niland Fire Capt. Adrian Rodriguez could be the next in line to assume the duties of chief.
“It’s time to let some new blood to come in,” Aleksick said. “I’ve had a good run.”
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at email@example.com