Meet the firefighter: Justin Hazellief

Delivering his own son was probably the most exciting thing that Okeechobee County Firefighter/Paramedic Justin Hazellief has ever had the opportunity to be a part of and he described it as the most amazing feeling in the world. Although as a paramedic, it was the third delivery he had participated in, that one was different because it was his own child, he said. Firefighting was not his first choice as a career. When he was young, he planned to be a rancher or a heavy equipment operator or maybe even a business man, but he started volunteering to gain community service hours for a college scholarship and to improve his resume and he said it took less than two years for him to realize firefighting was the path for him. He withdrew from his business classes and enrolled in the next available EMT course at Indian River State College (IRSC). In the 17 years since he started, he has never regretted the decision because he considers his job the most rewarding job in the world. “I have had the opportunity to help thousands of people in their most desperate times of need. It is those memories that make the bad memories bearable,” he said.

Mr. Hazellief is the first firefighter in his family, but he said his family has been involved in public service in some way for three generations. His father, David Hazellief, is one of Okeechobee’s county commissioners.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Firefighter Justin Hazellief, is pictured here with his wife Angela and son Wyatt.

Mr. Hazellief and his three brothers are the fifth generation of the Hazellief family to live in Okeechobee, and he considers his father and grandfather his heroes because of their relentless work ethic and moral compass. Both of his parents showed by example a lifestyle of hard work, discipline, self-respect, and how marriage and love should look. He said their example sculpted his entire life.

Mr. Hazellief began working at a very young age on the family farm and said he has been driving tractors and riding horses for as long as he can remember. Of the many skills he learned on the ranch, his least favorite was probably pulling soda apples. He attended Okeechobee High School, and his favorite sport was football. He said he loves University of Florida football, but if his son is playing football at the same time, the choice is easy, his son wins. While in high school, he was an officer in FFA, was a member of the soil judging team and was heavily involved in the livestock show. While in school, he loved math and agriculture and did not care at all for history but said now he really likes it a lot. He graduated from IRSC with a degree in Fire Science and a bachelor’s degree in organizational management. The Fire Science degree was to help with his career in firefighting and the other degree was for future aspirations to potentially become involved in local government politics. His Capstone project during college was improving attendance at the Saint Lucie County Fair. They were heavily involved with the fair committee and worked to improve their current programs as well as to bring in new ones.

Mr. Hazellief and his wife Angela will celebrate their 10th anniversary in May and have one seven-year-old son, Wyatt. They have a dog named Juniper and a cat named Jenna. In their spare time, they enjoy spending time outdoors camping and fishing. Mr. Hazellief is an avid offshore fisherman and spends one week every year in the Keys with four of his best friends where they fish from daylight to dark. He and his wife went to Costa Rica on their honeymoon and loved it so much that they have decided to go again on their 10th anniversary. The most unique thing about him, he says, is that he does not show a lot of emotion, but those who are closest to him know that he is a very passionate person. When he feels strongly about something, he sticks with it through he end.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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