Orange County

Apopka to add 18 more firefighters after family of firefighter killed on duty pushes for changes

APOPKA, Fla. — Apopka agreed to make changes at the fire department after years of back and forth and two months after firefighter Austin Duran died when he was crushed by a trailer filled with sand.

Changes pushed for by Duran’s parents are some of those included in the city’s budget.


His dad, Mike Duran, said he was happy to see several positions added to the budget this week.

He said all of the changes he has been fighting for have come directly from firefighters. But he said he is disappointed his son had to die for it to happen.

“It’s been hard and I feel like I haven’t really had time to grieve,” he said.

Read: ‘He was strong’: Firefighter Austin Duran remembered after passing from on-the-job injury

Since July, Mike Duran has been digging into documents and having deep discussions with Apopka firefighters. He said they’ve all told him the department is understaffed and undertrained, an issue the president of the Apopka firefighter’s union, Alex Klepper, claims they have brought to councilors for years.

“It took a line-of-duty death, it took the poor kid’s father to come in, it’s been just over two months and he’s having to come to a city council meeting to ask them to do what’s right,” Klepper said.

Watch: ‘Our hearts are broken’: Apopka mourns line-of-duty death of firefighter Austin Duran

Last week, Duran read a letter to city leaders written by Austin a little more than a year before he died. In it, he asked for better training.

Duran said reading that was the most difficult thing he’s had to do, but the fact that several new positions were added to the budget makes him feel like his work paid off.

Read: Apopka funeral procession honors fallen firefighter Austin Duran

The city has made space for 18 full-time firefighters, and they’ve also added a safety officer, a training chief and a quality assurance specialist.

“All of this is transpiring because of Austin,” Duran said. “He started this and he’s gonna finish it.”

The mayor said the city plans to hire nine firefighters in three months and nine more in six to nine months.

Read: Apopka car wash holds fundraiser for family of fallen firefighter Austin Duran

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.