Father’s plea to hire more Apopka firefighters gets approved

The city of Apopka approved its budget on Wednesday night following months of budget discussions. One of the major points of discussion was to add more funding to hire 18 firefighters, along with a safety & training officer. 

There was back and forth on if the money should be given all at once, or if it should get split up into two phases over the year period. The city approved giving the fire department all the funds at once starting on October 1.

A little more than $1.1 million will be available to the Apopka Fire Department to make more hires. The city will dip into it’s reserve to fund these new hires for the 2023 budget.

"We protect those reserves when we can, obviously it’s there for catastrophic losses and so this is one of those things we needed to do, " Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson told FOX 35. 

Apopka Fire Chief Sean Wylam told the city council Wednesday, his first priority will be hiring a safety and training officer, which will be done internally.

"My number one priority is to make sure moving forward, we’re providing the absolute best training for our newest recruits," said Wylam. 

The new safety hire is something Mike Duran believes would have prevented his son from getting killed in July.

"My son is dead and he is dead because there was no training, no safety, there was no supervision," Duran said.

25-year-old Austin Duran died in July after a 4,500-pound sand trailer fell on him and pinned him down. His father told FOX 35, his son had no training on how to use the equipment.

"Fund the department right now, right now, it has to be done, it has to be done for Austin. It has to be done for the city, it has to be done because it’s right," said Duran.

The 18 firefighters will allow the trucks to be staffed with three people, instead of the two it currently has. The International Association of Fire Fighters and the National Fire Protection Association recommends a minimum of four.

Finding 18 new hires might pose it’s own challenge, but Chief Wylam told council having the additional funds to be able to hire quickly after graduation is helpful. 

While Duran was pleased the city council agreed to the funding additions, he hopes the fire department will follow through and hire.