Deceased firefighter’s father pleads for AFD safety protocol to be improved

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Reading his late son’s own words, the father of the Apopka firefighter who died in the line of duty this summer pleaded with the Apopka City Council to improve safety protocols of the Apopka Fire Department, including hiring officers and setting up a mentorship program for new firefighters.

Michael Duran of Clermont stood before the City Council at the Wednesday, September 8, meeting.

“In this short time that I’ve been involved, I can already see what the Apopka Fire Department needs,” Duran said. “I am asking, I am begging. We need three people on each truck. We need to fill the EMS assistant position. We need a sole health and safety chief. I don’t know how we functioned this far without one. We need a training chief. To my knowledge, this position has been vacant for three years. We need a quality assurance specialist.”

Duran said to Mayor Bryan Nelson that on February 12, he said the city was in the process of filling that position. Duran observed that the position has not been filled to this day.

Duran read a May 15, 2021, letter from Austin Duran about his experience training as a new hire with a mentor named Phil Faro even though Faro was not his mentor, according to the letter. Austin described how some colleagues, including his “mentor,” helped him for months, but other “people would brush me off and tell me to go ask someone else.”

Austin recommended that a mentorship program is needed for new hires so they would feel more at ease learning on the job. In the letter, he said he felt comfortable working with Faro and asking him questions, but it was a different matter with other firefighters.

“Honestly speaking, I was scared to ask some people questions about how certain things were or where certain things was because I was afraid of the response I was going to get from senior firefighters,” Austin admitted in the letter. “Should I be scared to ask something? I don’t know. Probably not, but as a rookie, nervous as ever, I was.”

On June 30, Austin Duran, 25, was trying to move heavy equipment when a sand bucket container tipped and crushed him at a fire station. He was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center for his injuries.

He suffered traumatic injuries to his spine, six fractured ribs, a punctured lung, a compound fracture of his leg, and a fractured humerus in his arm. Duran endured a series of surgeries before his passing on July 15.

Born in Orlando on May 25, 1997, Duran joined the Apopka Fire Department as a Fire Explorer in high school. In July 2020, he began working with the Apopka Fire Department.

Duran is survived by his mother Gail, father Michael, sister Sierra, girlfriend Sydney, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and his extended firefighter family.

More coverage of the July 6, 2022, Apopka City Council meeting can be found in the Friday, September 9, issue of The Apopka Chief. Subscribe today.

The Apopka Chief and The Planter are weekly community newspapers, independently owned and family operated, that have served the greater Apopka area in Central Florida since 1923 and 1965 respectively.

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