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Apopka firefighters call for safety improvements after firefighter’s death



After one of their own died in a work-related accident, Apopka firefighters and city leaders are raising concerns over safety on the job. Austin Duran died in July after a sand container fell on him at the fire station. He was 25 years old. His fellow firefighters are pushing for change to prevent another tragedy. Apopka’s Fire Chief Sean Wylam laid out a list of needs for the fire department at Monday’s city council budget meeting. He requested help replacing two ambulances, funding for some new gear and hiring more firefighters to keep up with the city’s growth.Some city commissioners took issue with what the chief left out of his list. “None of your budget, at least with what I’m looking at, has anything to do with training… that’s concerning,” commissioner Nick Nesta said. The chief said improving safety is a goal.”We’re out there looking at that, and again from my level, we have provided opportunities; we have numerous different training classes,” Wylam said. “Having an accident or a travesty like this, it’s going to change a lot of different things.”Commissioners Nesta and Diane Velazquez called it concerning after learning that the safety committee made up of four people has not met since Duran’s death. “This incident that happened with the line of duty death with one of your firefighters should certainly really get everyone on board to say ‘we need to change now.’ Not tomorrow,” Velazquez said. “This is the budget season right now. This is where you need to take advantage of — how do we make some changes now?” The union president for Apopka Fire Alex Kleppler says the department desperately needs to hire an officer that would be strictly in charge of training. “I just put my brother in the ground,” Kleppler said. “It’s been a month since he died and absolutely nothing was done to fix the environment and operational weaknesses that led to it.”Kleppler says more than half of Apopka’s firefighters have five years of experience or less. Duran worked with the fire department for two years. “I mean, the two people on the specialized truck only had a few years out of high school,” Kleppler said. “We have people on specialized vehicles that have three weeks out of fire high school… We’re a fire department; we respond to emergencies and we prevent them. We’re not doing any of those right now.”Kleppler says after Duran’s death, he sent numerous emails and made calls to push for change and said some of those messages were ignored. “What’s the cost of losing one of these guys here?” Kleppler said during public comments. City commissioners say they will consider everything that was shared at the meeting. Kleppler told them he begs that they reconsider the budget proposal that was presented.

After one of their own died in a work-related accident, Apopka firefighters and city leaders are raising concerns over safety on the job.

Austin Duran died in July after a sand container fell on him at the fire station. He was 25 years old.

His fellow firefighters are pushing for change to prevent another tragedy.

Apopka’s Fire Chief Sean Wylam laid out a list of needs for the fire department at Monday’s city council budget meeting. He requested help replacing two ambulances, funding for some new gear and hiring more firefighters to keep up with the city’s growth.

Some city commissioners took issue with what the chief left out of his list.

“None of your budget, at least with what I’m looking at, has anything to do with training… that’s concerning,” commissioner Nick Nesta said.

The chief said improving safety is a goal.

“We’re out there looking at that, and again from my level, we have provided opportunities; we have numerous different training classes,” Wylam said. “Having an accident or a travesty like this, it’s going to change a lot of different things.”

Commissioners Nesta and Diane Velazquez called it concerning after learning that the safety committee made up of four people has not met since Duran’s death.

“This incident that happened with the line of duty death with one of your firefighters should certainly really get everyone on board to say ‘we need to change now.’ Not tomorrow,” Velazquez said. “This is the budget season right now. This is where you need to take advantage of — how do we make some changes now?”

The union president for Apopka Fire Alex Kleppler says the department desperately needs to hire an officer that would be strictly in charge of training.

“I just put my brother in the ground,” Kleppler said. “It’s been a month since he died and absolutely nothing was done to fix the environment and operational weaknesses that led to it.”

Kleppler says more than half of Apopka’s firefighters have five years of experience or less.

Duran worked with the fire department for two years.

“I mean, the two people on the specialized truck only had a few years out of high school,” Kleppler said. “We have people on specialized vehicles that have three weeks out of fire high school… We’re a fire department; we respond to emergencies and we prevent them. We’re not doing any of those right now.”

Kleppler says after Duran’s death, he sent numerous emails and made calls to push for change and said some of those messages were ignored.

“What’s the cost of losing one of these guys here?” Kleppler said during public comments.

City commissioners say they will consider everything that was shared at the meeting. Kleppler told them he begs that they reconsider the budget proposal that was presented.



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