For firefighter Danny Chimento, life has new meaning since welcoming God into his life.
As a special operations firefighter with Lake County Fire Rescue, 41-year-old Danny Chimento has put out his fair share of fires.
But 10 years ago, he was forced to deal with a marriage that was going up in smoke. The flame that once ignited the relationship between him and his wife was barely flickering. In fact, it had nearly been extinguished.
“That was a low, dark point of my life,” he recalls. “My identity was too closely tied with my career, and that made me neglect my marriage. Things were falling apart, and we were fighting all the time. We even began talking about divorce.”
Because he had no relationship with God, Danny refers to that period of his life as “B.C.,” which stands for “Before Christ.” He had been married for eight years, but God had no presence in his life or marriage.
That all changed one Sunday morning when Danny agreed to attend a service with his family at Family Bible Church in Eustis. In the weeks leading up to that, his daughter, Jessica, began attending a youth group at the church, and his wife, Rae Martin Chimento, became a regular attendee of Wednesday night services. Danny noticed how both of them seemed at peace with their lives.
As Danny sat through the sermon, which, ironically, was titled “Church Haters,” he felt like the pastor was delivering a direct message to him from God.
“Everything in the sermon spoke about the circumstances my wife and I were having,” he says. “It was God trying to reach me.”
Toward the end of the service, Danny took his youngest daughter, Camryn, to the restroom. A spiritual awakening occurred.
“I dropped to my knees and cried,” he recalls. “I was so broken. I had to get to that low point to let God in my heart and give him a chance. He was speaking to me and saying, ‘If you don’t’ let me in, you’re going to lose it all.’”
Danny had been unofficially baptized, burying the old life and rising to walk in a new life.
“That was my surrender,” he says. “I felt lighter walking out of that restroom.”
Danny credits God for saving his marriage and family. He and Rae have been married 20 years and have three daughters: Jessica, 22, Kaitlyn, 17, and Camryn, 11.
Today, Danny certainly is fit for duty. High-intensity interval training and strength training have helped him build and maintain a muscular physique. Fitness is a must for a special operations firefighter, which Danny likens to “the SWAT team of the fire department.” His unit makes high-angle rescues, confined-space rescues, and trench and excavation rescues.
When he responds to a fire, he is weighted down by nearly 60 pounds of gear: a coat and air pack, pants, boots, gloves, and a helmet.
“When there’s a fire and somebody is entrapped, every second that ticks by feels like an hour,” he says. “Every second counts and can mean the difference between life and death. That motivates me to stay on top of my health, nutrition, and diet.”
Danny motivates other firefighters to stay in tip-top shape. And he’s not afraid to flex his spiritual muscles.
“When you’re a firefighter, one-third of your life is spent with fellow firefighters,” he says. “We live together and get into deep conversations. That leaves the door wide open to plant seeds and minister to other guys.”
While he regularly exercises his body, nothing is more important than exercising his faith.
“I feel truly blessed to have a relationship with Jesus,” Danny says. “That relationship is the foundation of everything in life. Without it, I have nothing. God has helped me balance out my career and my marriage and understand which one is more important. There will come a day that I’ll no longer be a firefighter, but my wife will still be there.”
Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County's many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!
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