Meet 3-year-old Eli: Clearwater's junior fire chief

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It was a day a little boy will never forget: Eli Bright loves firefighters and he got the VIP treatment from Clearwater Fire Rescue.

The 3-year-old from Kentucky is living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  The fire department had heard Eli was going to be in town and jumped at the chance to give him a special day. 

Eli’s big day started when he was appointed the junior fire chief of Firehouse 45 in Clearwater. He got a tour of the station, sat in a fire truck, and even sprayed a fire hose. He also had lunch with the firefighters before they gave him a special ride in a fire truck to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. 

“Sometimes we kind of forget about kids that are in wheelchairs or maybe don’t have the abilities that we do, but they’re still young kids with big hearts and they see fire trucks and they want to touch the trucks just like any other kid, and we can’t forget that,” Offered Lt. Steve Salagaras of Clearwater Fire Rescue.

“It’s huge to know that these kind of folks rally behind us. I mean, they barely even know us and they’re excited to see Eli happy and smile,” added Natalie Wheatley, Eli’s mom.