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Lakeland Fire Department News


Keeping you informed of what's new with the LFD.

At least one in seven seniors is at-risk of going hungry due to the inability to obtain sufficient food for their household or having to choose between food and medical care according to Feeding America.The Lakeland Fire Department is partnering with Comfort Keepers of Lakeland to benefit VISTE, a Lakeland area non-profit food bank, in asking the community to make food donations to the Feed Seniors Now food drive to help local seniors and raise awareness for this growing epidemic that impacts millions of older Americans trying to remain healthy and independent. 

Through September 31, 2013, the Lakeland Fire Department will be accepting donations in the lobby of its administration building located at 701 E. Main Street, Lakeland, FL 33801. Click here for a list of nutritious foods that are ideal for donation. 

Hunger can lead to malnutrition and other serious health problems in seniors. The lack of an adequate diet can have an immediate impact on the body, mind, and the safety of senior citizens. If seniors fail to consume the appropriate amount of nutrients, their bodies may become weak or unstable and their minds may become fatigued. The combination of these two effects will significantly increase the risk of a fall and other accidents. In addition, malnutrition can affect the body’s immune system and leave seniors more vulnerable to diseases or illnesses. As many as 85% of seniors in the care of others are at risk for malnutrition and its consequences. Signs of malnutrition may include sudden weight gain or loss, bruising, or dental difficulties, sudden changes in taste, or a general disinterest in eating. For seniors, malnutrition means the potential for increased hospital stays, increased health complications, early entry into assisted living facilities or even premature death.


Fire Chief Gary Ballard and Assistant Chief Doug Riley participated in a county wide event held at the Polk County Sheriff’s Compound in Winter Haven early Wednesday, September 11th, 2013. The event was to commemorate the tragic loss of life twelve years ago this day. The event featured the symbolic release of 50 white doves by representatives from fire-rescue and police departments throughout Polk County. “We were glad to be a part of this event” said Chief Gary Ballard. 

“It is important to remember that today is not only a day to reflect on the thousands that lost their lives on the day of the attacks but also the scores of others that fell victim to these acts of terrorism, like the soldiers who died in conflicts that resulted from the 9/11 attacks, first responders who have since fallen ill as a result of their exposure during rescue efforts, and scores of others whose lives were disrupted by the events.” added Chief Ballard.

Lakeland Fire Department Sponsors Fire Prevention Week and 8th Annual Open House to Remind Residents to ‘Prevent Kitchen Fires’

Lakeland — It's time for Fire Prevention Week, and from October 6 - 12, 2013 the Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) is joining forces with the non-profit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to remind local residents to ‘Prevent Kitchen Fires.' During this year's fire safety campaign, firefighters and safety advocates will be spreading the word about the dangers of kitchen fires--most of which result from unattended cooking—and teaching local residents how to prevent kitchen fires from starting in the first place. 

The week will culminate with the LFD hosting its 8th annual Open House event scheduled for October 12, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The entire community is invited to this FREE event where the department will feature live demonstrations, tours, refreshments, fire safety education for all ages, and much more.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires. Two of every five home fires begin in the kitchen—more than any other place in the home. Cooking fires are also the leading cause of fire-related injuries in the home. "Often when we're called to a fire that started in the kitchen, the residents tell us that they only left the kitchen for a few minutes," said Janel Vasallo, Public Education and Information Officer for the LFD. "Sadly, that's all it takes for a dangerous fire to start. We hope that Fire Prevention Week and our Open House event will help us reach citizens in our community to prevent this from ever happening to them.”

Among the safety tips that firefighters and safety advocates will be emphasizing:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, broiling, or boiling food.
  • If you must leave the room, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • When you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, stay in the home, and use a timer to remind you.
  • If you have young children, use the stove’s back burners whenever possible. Keep children and pets at least three away from the stove.
  • When you cook, wear clothing with tight-fitting sleeves.
  • Keep potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic bags, towels, and anything else that can burn, away from your stovetop.
  • Clean up food and grease from burners and stove tops. 

Fire Prevention Week is actively supported by fire departments across the country. Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record.

For more information click here.

Bells Will Ring in Lakeland for 3rd Annual Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters

Lakeland – For the third year, the entire country is invited to come together as one community to honor the memory of those firefighters who died in the line of duty and reassure their loved ones that their firefighter will not be forgotten by participating in the Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters remembrance.

The Lakeland Fire Department will join the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), other fire departments, and community groups from coast to coast in this poignant tribute as part of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend. The moment of remembrance will occur on Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM at all Lakeland fire stations and at participating locations throughout the Lakeland area. This day also marks the beginning of Fire Prevention Week.

“It is with great sadness that we ring these bells for fellow firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. It allows us to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice they have made for their communities. It is my hope and desire to never have to ring a bell again because of a firefighter perishing while serving.” said Lakeland Fire Chief Gary Ballard.

“The ringing of bells has a powerful meaning to firefighters. Not only do bells signal the beginning or end of a call, they also were used to notify department members that one of their own had died while serving the community.” explained Chief Ronald Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF.

Hundreds of fire departments, places of worship and other groups participated in Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters over the past two years.

For more information about the national remembrance visit .

The Lakeland Fire Department would also like to invite area community group and churches to participate in their own way. Please read more about the invitation from Fire Chief Gary Ballard here

On Wednesday, September 4, 2013 long time veteran of the Lakeland Fire Department (LFD), Wayne Epperson, was promoted to the officer position of Battalion Chief.   

 Bat. Chief Epperson was joined by family, friends, colleagues, and an extended network of City of Lakeland representatives, including Mayor Gow Fields, to celebrate his professional advancement.

Wayne began his career with the LFD in 1985 and served as a firefighter, fire instructor, driver-engineer, and lieutenant, having held the latter position for 17 years. Speakers at the ceremony including Fire Chief Gary Ballard, Assistant Chief Rick Hartzog, Bat. Chief Mike Williams, and Bat. Chief Jeff Wharton all concurred that Bat. Chief Epperson is one of the most honest, dedicated, and deserving individuals they know within the organization. Wayne has been heavily involved with training efforts throughout his career and through his many years of experience and leadership will undoubtedly further elevate the position.

 A big congratulations to Wayne Epperson and sincere thanks to him for the many years of dedicated service he has provided the people of Lakeland. 



The Lakeland Professional Firefighters Union, Local 4173, will be sponsoring a fundraiser to benefit the March of Dimes. 

Scheduled for September 14, 2013 at Peterson Park in Lakeland, the event will feature a competitive cornhole tournament with prizes for the top three finishers.  Lt. Heath Seeber's famous pulled pork platter will also be sold to raise funds. 

The event has been a great success in years past, raising several thousand dollars for the March of Dimes. Come out and join in the fun to help this event continue to be a success.  

For more information click here

Lakeland --- Early Thursday, August 22, 2013, at approximately 7:00 AM, the Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) responded to an accident involving two vehicles on the east bound lanes of I-4 at 3800 I-4, Lakeland, FL, 33809.

Upon arrival, emergency responders found a mini-van and 4-door compact car that had collided. All of the occupants of the mini-van had successfully exited the vehicle prior to the arrival of LFD responders, but the male driver of the compact car was trapped due to heavy front end damage to his vehicle.

LFD personnel immediately initiated medical treatment upon arrival, and with the assistance of Polk County Fire Rescue (PCFR), closed all east bound lanes of I-4 to proceed with extrication of the victim. Tower Truck 15 and Fire Engine 61 arrived on scene to stabilize the vehicle and perform the extrication. Due to the condition of the vehicle, two hydraulic rescue tools (commonly known as the “Jaws of Life”) had to be used to remove the vehicle’s roof and the driver’s side door to successfully free the man. He was then ground transported to an area hospital by PCFR.

The Lakeland Fire Department responded with 5 apparatuses and 11 personnel.

Lakeland's firefighters have a very real passion for what they do. Earlier this summer, Training Chief John Almskog and Lieutenant Matt Brown were able to share some of their enthusiasm for firefighting and emergency medical response with local teen Brodie Bulloch. Brodie, who is interested in joining the fire service, is one of the stars of UPTV's reality show Bulloch Family Ranch. 

Almskog and Brown spent a day with  Bulloch, showing him the ropes and providing some insight as to what it takes both physically and mentally to serve the community of Lakeland on the front lines. 

The experience was featured on the seventh episode of the show which aired August 21, 2013 at 10:00 PM on UPTV.


Lakeland --- Early Friday, August 16, 2013, at approximately 6:05 AM, the Lakeland Fire Department responded to a residential fire on 1122 N. Vermont Ave. The two story structure, known for being frequented by the area’s homeless, was vacant at the time of the fire. There were no injuries. The fire was fully extinguished by 8:00 AM and rendered the structure a total loss.


The fire was reported by a neighbor who called 9-1-1. The fire began on the first floor and involved slightly over 50% of the structure. Investigators found evidence of the fire being intentionally set and the incident remains under investigation.

The Lakeland Fire Department responded with 8 apparatuses and 22 personnel. The fire was contained to the referenced structure with no damage to surrounding structures.

Contact Janel Vasallo at for more information. 


On Monday, August 19th, Tuesday, August 20th, and Wednesday, August 21st, 2013, the Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) will be promoting driving safety by reminding motorist that they should slow down and buckle up in consideration of school being back in session. The LFD will have a fire engine and/or rescue truck positioned at the busiest intersections near thirteen elementary schools in the department’s coverage area. 

Firefighters will be holding signs encouraging safe driving by reminding motorist to drive slowly in school zones and to buckle up. Firefighters will be stationed at high visibility roadways and intersections near the schools.   The Lakeland Fire Department’s goal is to ensure that no child is injured this school year by a negligent driver.  Since the beginning of this safety campaign in 2009, incidents involving motorist striking pedestrians have steadily declined.  

LFD apparatus and firefighters will be targeting the following schools at these intersections:


Lakeland Area Elementary School

Targeted Roadway / Intersection

Campaign Hours During Student Drop Off

Campaign Hours During Student Pick Up

Blake Academy

Hartsell Ave. / Sikes Blvd.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Carlton Palmore Elementary

Cleveland Heights Blvd. / Westover St.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Cleveland Court Elementary

Edgewood Dr. /Carolina Ave.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Dixieland Elementary

Ariana Rd. in front of school

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:00- 3:00 PM

Jesse Keen Elementary

Wabash Ave. in front of school

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:00- 3:00 PM

Lincoln Avenue Academy

Lincoln Ave. / 10th St.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:00- 3:00 PM

North Lakeland Elementary

Robson St. / Baird Ave.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Philip O'Brien Elementary

Lime St. / Lake Parker Ave.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Rochelle School of the Arts

MLK Jr. Ave. / 10th St.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:00- 3:00 PM

Sleepy Hill Elementary

Griffin Rd. /Kathleen Rd.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Southwest Elementary

South Florida Ave. / Oak St.

7:00 - 7:45 AM

2:00- 3:00 PM

* McKeel Academy Central

North Florida Ave. / Oak St.

8:00 – 9:00 AM

2:30 – 3:30 PM

* South McKeel Elementary


South Edgewood Dr. in front of school

8:00 – 9:00 AM

2:45 – 3:45 PM


* McKeel and South McKeel will be visited on Thursday, August 15 and Friday, August 16 for their first days of school. 

All units will remain available to respond to emergencies during these times. For more information contact Janel Vasallo at (863)834-8219 or