After Fla. firefighter’s death, city council aims to hire 18 FF-paramedics instead of 6
Apopka crews typically have two people, but the IAFF recommends at least four
APOPKA, Fla. — Spurred by the accidental death of a firefighter this summer, Apopka City Council reworked the proposed 2022-23 budget of Orange County’s second-largest city, deciding to hire 18 firefighter-paramedics rather than six and fund two new administrative fire positions.
The edits will cost $1.1 million and require dipping into financial reserves or cutting other expenses, Mayor Bryan Nelson said.
The original $146.2 million budget included 22 new positions citywide, including six firefighters.
“We’re moving forward in the direction of safety,” Apopka commissioner Diane Velazquez said.
The city will not raise its tax rate, Nelson said.
City Administrator Edward Bass said he expects the revised budget will increase “a little bit.”
“I’ve given them some suggestions on where they might cut,” he said of the council.
Council’s revisions followed a budget presentation by Wil Rivera-Sanchez, the Apopka Fire Department division chief for emergency medical services, and a plea from Michael Duran, father of firefighter Austin Duran, 25, fatally injured on the job on June 30.
Rivera-Sanchez appealed to the council to hire 18 firefighters to allow the department to dispatch fire vehicles to emergency calls with three-person crews, an operational goal the city planned to achieve by hiring six new firefighters in each of the next three years.
The Apopka Fire Department has 115 members.
The city’s standard is two-person crews.
The International Association of Fire Fighters and the National Fire Protection Association recommend a minimum of four.
Michael Duran invoked his son’s death, underscoring an appeal for more firefighters, a training officer and a health and safety officer.
“I am asking, I am begging,” he told City Council somberly during last week’s budget hearing. “If we are not capable of protecting our own, how can the citizens feel confident that we are equipped to protect them?”
Austin Duran, a fire explorer at Wekiva High School, was hired by the Apopka Fire Department in July 2020.
He was trying to move a heavy trailer of sand at a fire station June 30 when it fell, crushing him, according to news reports.
He died July 15.
“How many lives need to be lost for us to realize that we need to properly train and staff our departments? ... How can we be confident all personnel who are fighting this fight return home at the end of their shift?” Michael Duran said.
City Council is set to vote on the final budget at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
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