Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Gary Sellito of the Anna Maria substation received the agency’s Deputy of the Month award for September for his actions at the Rod & Reel Pier, 875 N. Shore Drive, when a smoldering electrical fire was discovered in the kitchen just before 8:30 a.m. Sept. 30.
Sellito was on patrol at the pier as part of his morning rounds.
According to the citation from Sheriff Brad Steube, a kitchen employee showed Sellito where smoke was emitting from an opening in the ceiling of the restaurant.
“He immediately recognized the gravity of the situation as the old pier and restaurant are constructed of well-weathered wood which could easily erupt into a major fire from a single flame,” the citation reads.
Sellito ordered the pier evacuated and contacted West Manatee Fire Rescue.
While smoke poured from the first floor ceiling, Sellito found the main electrical panel and shut off electricity to the pier.
After ensuring all personnel were off the pier, Sellito left, only to return a few moments later when he remembered the gas line to the restaurant remained on.
While Sellito was attempting to locate the gas valve inside the burning building, WMFR firefighters arrived and secured the gas valve.
“Deputy Sellito’s quick actions this day were an outstanding example of self-sacrifice in the face of imminent danger. His actions potentially saved lives and undoubtedly led to minimizing the damage caused by the fire,” the citation reads.
MCSO Sgt. Paul Davis, who heads the substation, said Sellito’s actions reflect “greatly on Gary and the entire unit.”
Davis recommended Sellito for the award after learning of his actions at the restaurant. Davis said each month a large number of recommendations for Deputy of the Month are received by the MCSO awards committee.
Sellito has been assigned to the Anna Maria patrol for 22 years, he said. This is his first MCSO Deputy of the Month award.