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Lakeland Fire Department News


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

Janel's Blog

The Lakeland Fire Department will conduct the official groundbreaking ceremony for Fire Station 7 on Monday, November 18th at 1:30 p.m.  The physical location of Station 7 is 3150 Drane Field Road.

The current station is housed in a temporary facility at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport until the new state of the art fire station is ushered in by late 2014. The building will stand out compared to the department’s other stations due to its modern and environmentally conscious design.  Once the facility is built it will house the recently purchased Fire Engine 71, the two ARFF units, a heavy rescue vehicle and nine personnel on a 24-hour rotation. 

Lakeland Fire Chief Gary Ballard said, “Our design team has developed a station that will meet the safety needs of the airport, the needs of our residents and the commercial development around the airport.” He added, “We are very eager to start providing much needed service to the citizens in Southwest Lakeland with the new permanent facility.”

The construction costs associated with Station 7 are $3.5 million.  The station once built will be 15,900 sq.ft. and it will house five bays and four fire fighting vehicles.  The station is estimated to be completed November 2014 and it is being funded through City of Lakeland Public Improvement Funds and FDOT Grant funds.

The public is welcome to attend the groundbreaking ceremony, marking a historic event for the Lakeland Fire Department.


The Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) is proud to be able to honor veterans and recognize the many service men and women who have sacrificed very much in name of country and duty. The LFD employs many military veterans from all five branches of service and is excited to be able to participate in the upcoming Lakeland Veterans Day Parade, scheduled for Saturday, November 9, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Tower Truck 15 flanked by Fire Administration and Fire Fighting Personnel will lead the parade procession. 

In addition to the departments participation in the parade, which has become an annual tradition, the LFD will also be participating in the Lakeland area Honor Flight reception scheduled for Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 8:00 PM. The event is organized by the Polk County Veterans Council. The reception will be attended by community members, Polk County School's JROTC groups, former military personnel, community organizations like the fire department, and many others to welcome back area WWII veterans who will be returning from visiting the National World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. .

Particularly exciting is that two of LFD's very own, Lieutenant Harley Wilson and Driver-Engineer Kelvin Jones will be serving as a Guardians on this honor flight and have served as guardians on other flights before. Both are very involved with veteran related events and organizations as a way of giving back. Lt. Wilson served in the United States Navy. D/E Jones served in the United Stated Air Force and served multiple tours in the Gulf War. 

Upon arrival the plane load of veterans will not only be greeted by the throngs of excited and thankful well-wishers but also by the LFD's Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) truck which will hose down the plane in an honorary gesture. The entire department is looking forward to participating in both the parade and Honor Flight reception. The public is welcome to attend and all LFD personnel are encouraged to participate. 

For more information about the parade from the event organizer, please click here.

For more information about the Honor Flight reception from the event organizer, please click here.

For more information about the Honor Flight Network, please click here

On Thursday, October 17, 2013 in a well-attended retirement ceremony, the Lakeland Fire Department gave a fond farewell to Driver Engineer Joel Brown. D/E Brown was joined by his lovely wife and daughter as well as by many LFD personnel old and new, including some that are retired themselves.

D/E Brown enjoyed a noteworthy 30 year career with LFD which included a close call in a 1987 fire that led to a structural collapse. He was trapped with a fellow firefighter while fighting the blaze and fortunately made it through, making him a highly respected and experienced member of the department. 

He plans to enjoy his well-earned retirement hunting, fishing, and spending more time with is family.

Congratulations and sincere thanks to Joel for his many years of selfless and dedicated service. 




In late September of 2013, a select group of Lakeland Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team members attended a Structural Collapse Technician Course in Ocala, Florida. This specialized training opportunity gave LFD’s USAR members an opportunity to learn new life saving rescue techniques and the ability to train with fellow firefighters from throughout the state. 

The course offered by the state fire college was a unique experience for those involved.  The course was 80 hours of rigorous training.  It involved various methods of breaching and breaking concrete, usage of various cutting torches, lifting and moving significantly large objects utilizing a crane as well as some basic rigging and hand signals for crane operations, and shoring up of unstable buildings.  These skills are particularly useful in the event that access to a victim or multiple victims is needed for rescue as a result of a collapsed or significantly compromised building.  

“I enjoyed the class, it was challenging and informative.  I would encourage more firefighters to take and obtain this level of training.  The learning environment that the state fire college created was excellent.  It was great for team building and morale among team members.” said Firefighter Jason Diaz.  All of the firefighters that participated felt that it was a great learning experience and was very useful in improving their skills to better serve the people of Lakeland in the event of a structural collapse or situation requiring heavy rescue.  

Firefighters that attended were: 


Lt. Scott Gilbreath, Lt. Heath Seeber, D/E Dan Varner, D/E Kuikahi Kawailani, FF Jason Diaz






The LFD’s 7th Annual Open House event that took place Saturday, October 12 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM was a huge success. Approximately 3,000 people showed up making it the largest event put on by the department yet!

Citizen’s came out to learn more about fire safety, to better understand the many different services the department offers the community, and to see the equipment used to keep the citizens of Lakeland safe up close.

Demonstrations we offered every half hour, kitchen fire safety tips were provided, and guests were invited to tour the station and enjoy free goodies and refreshments.

The event is growing every year and plans are already under way to make next year’s event even bigger and better. Mark your calendars because everyone is encouraged to come out and join the department again for its 8th annual Open House event, planned for October 11, 2014.

Check out more information about the event and photos here. 



Lakeland --- At approximately 8:15 PM, the Lakeland Fire Department responded to a home fire at 1408 Phyllis Street, Lakeland, FL.  Fire crews breached the front door to find heavy smoke conditions and a bedroom on the east side of the home consumed in flames. Crews extinguished the fire without incident but upon searching the structure for occupants discovered 3 pets; a large dog and two cats.

The home was occupied by siblings Thomas Watkins and Pamela Burton, neither of which were home when the fire began. The fire is believed to have begun after Watkins briefly left the home for a walk. Upon returning Watkins discovered the fire and entered to rescue the aforementioned pets. Mr. Watkins was assessed and air lifted from the scene to Tampa General Hospital for treatment.

Extensive resuscitation attempts were made on all three of the pets by LFD firefighters. One cat was revived after being administered oxygen, however the second cat and the dog perished from their injuries, even after resuscitation attempts by crews which included full intubation and Advanced Life Support treatment. The LFD crews are trained and all of the department’s rescue apparatuses are equipped with specialized equipment designed for pet rescue and resuscitation.

It is important to remind pet owners that however difficult it may be to do, please do not enter a burning structure to save a pet. If a building is on fire or shows signs of fire, like smoke, stay out! Pets are very much loved and seen as members of the family but people should not jeopardize their safety in the event of a fire or other emergency. Responders are specially trained to rescue everyone, including pets.

LFD’s fire investigator determined that that the fire was started by smoking materials in the affected bedroom and was accidental. The fire caused $25,000 in damage to the home. 

Janel Vasallo, the Lakeland Fire Department's Public Education and Information Officer will sit down and speak with Hall Communication's Andrea Oliver to share important holiday safety tips and more about the department's upcoming Open House event. The radio program is scheduled to air Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 8:00 AM on 98.7 FM and 8:30 AM on 97.5 FM and other Lakeland area Hall Communication's radio stations. Janel will also sit down to discuss similar safety tips with Lakeland Vision's Tammy Wright for a separate radio broadcast scheduled to air October 6, 2013 on the same stations. 

With the end of the year approaching and a busy holiday season ahead, fire safety needs to be at the forefront of citizen’s minds. The incident of fires doubles during the holidays and with the decorations and special events that come with the holiday so does the increased risk of fire. 

Halloween is fast approaching and the LFD encourages citizens to avoid billowing or long fabrics for costumes, the use of candles in Halloween decor, and reminds citizens to make sure they have readily available lighting like flashlights when trick-or treating. Click here for more information. 

Thanksgiving is a very popular holiday with lots of additional happenings in the kitchen necessary to prepare all of the delicious meals the holiday is known for. The LFD wants to remind citizens to always stay in the kitchen when cooking, be sure to keep the stove clear, and to keep children away from hot surfaces or electrical equipment. Also, frying turkeys has become a popular way to prepare the holiday staple, however it is a highly dangerous way of cooking. Click here for more safety tips in regards to frying turkeys if you still plan on doing so. Click here for general Thanksgiving safety tips. 

Christmas is a wonderful time of year full of beautiful decorations to mark the occasion, decorations which can pose an additional fire threat. Please be sure to use fire retardant artificial trees or a well-watered tree if using a natural Christmas tree, don't over load electrical outlets with decorative lights, make sure to inspect all decorative lights to ensure none are broken or that frayed wires are exposed, and use flame-less candles as opposed to traditional candles. If you do decide to use traditional candles be sure to keep them clear of anything that may potentially be flammable. For lots of additional information on how to stay safe during Christmas and other December holidays click here


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.