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Lakeland Fire Department News


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

Story Comes Full Circle: An unfortunate event becomes a blessing in disguise thanks to generous donation from Tempur-Pedic Mattress Company. 

In early June of 2015 the Lakeland Fire Department was faced with a Bedbug issue for the first time in its nearly 100 year history. The possibility of bedbugs at a fire station is quite a common occurrence at fire departments across the nation due to the nature of emergency responders’ work and their entering all kinds of environments to provide aid. The bedbugs, which were only found at Fire Station 4, were quickly dealt with by the department through extermination, decontamination, and preventative measures taken at all other stations to prevent it from occurring again. 

LFD’s run in with these pests was well documented by local media and as a result the Tempur-Pedic 's worldwide headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky became aware of what had happened and wanted to help. The company has a charitable arm that provides new mattresses for an array of reasons to emergency responders, military, and non-profit organizations like the Ronald McDonald House. 

Firefighters work 24 hours shift, which requires Fire Stations to have accommodations; although they don’t get used nearly as much use as some may think due to LFD’s high volume of emergency calls coming in at all hours of the day and night. With only 150 total emergency responders, the department responded to approximately 22,000 calls last year alone!

Without any prompting, Tempur-Pedic contacted LFD and provided new mattresses for every single Lakeland Fire Department fire station which arrived Friday, July 17, 2015. They even sent some mattresses along with LFD's shipment for a neighboring fire department, which Polk County Fire Rescue accepted. A total of 120 mattresses were donated to Fire Stations in the two communities.

The department appreciates the generous and kind gesture made by Tempur-Pedic. This will serve the department for many years to come.

See photos from the delivery here

Firefighter/Paramedics Colin Leidy and Alex Sanchez were recognized at the July 6, 2015 City of Lakeland Commission Meeting with the COL Hero Award. 

They received the award for taking extraordinary steps in the field to save a citizen in need. Their quick thinking and skilled practice in the field resulted in a man, who was suffering cardiac arrest, to survive and make a full recovery. The patients wife returned several weeks later with the good news and to thank them both for taking the steps they did to ensure her husbands survival.

They are both greatly appreciated for their service and dedication in the field. You can see pictures from the award presentation here.




Lakeland, FL. June 30, 2015 – Shooting-off fireworks on Independence Day is becoming more hazardous, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) study. The best available data from the CPSC study shows that in 2013, there were eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 consumers who sustained injuries related to fireworks. This represents an increase from 8,700 injuries in 2012. Sixty-five percent, or 7,400, of the injuries in 2013 occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4.

Fireworks malfunctions and improper use are associated with the most injuries, according to the study. Injuries frequently resulted from users playing with lit fireworks or igniting fireworks while holding the device. Last year, children under age 5 experienced a higher estimated per capita injury rate than any other age group, according to the study. Past reports indicate that consumers sometimes feel comfortable handing off fireworks to children that are perceived to be less powerful, such as sparklers. Sparklers account for more than 40 percent of all estimated injuries.

The department would like to encourage everyone to leave the fireworks to professionals for a safe Independence Day celebration. However, consumers who decide to purchase legal fireworks (Florida law prohibits any fireworks that fly through the air or explode) are strongly encouraged to follow these safety recommendations:

Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- hot enough to melt some metals;
Always have an adult close by to supervise fireworks activities;
Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks;
Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap;
Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and discard;
Never point or throw fireworks at another person;
Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers;
After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

For more fire safety information from the department on fireworks and other important safety topics visit  . Have a SAFE 4thof July. In the event of an emergency 
dial 9-1-1. 

The department is very proud of its 2014 Firefighter of the Year Awardees. Every year, spanning from January to April, four separate organizations in Lakeland recognize an outstanding member of the fire department as “Firefighter of the Year” from the previous calendar year. The civic groups that present these awards are: Lakeland Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Sons of the American Revolution, and the President’s Round Table of Lakeland.

Several nominations were submitted by LFD firefighters for their peers.  The department is proud to recognize the three of its Firefighter’s who were awarded with multiple Firefighter of the Year Awards for their heroic actions that set them apart for going above and beyond their regular duties.

Lt. Matt Brown: American Legion FFoY (County), American Legion FFoY (State), President’s Roundtable Heroism Award; FFoY.

For running to the aid of a wounded police officer, while off duty.

Driver Engineer Richard Hance: President’s Round Table Heroism Award; FFoY.

For saving young passengers of a horrific car accident, while off duty.

Driver Engineer Petur Leonard: Knights of Columbus FFoY Award. Sons of the American Revolution FFoY.

For rendering emergency medical care to a critical patient in the field. Actions taken by Paramedic Leonard credited for saving the patient’s life.

Congratulations to the 2014 Awardees and sincere appreciation to them for being fine examples of LFD emergency response personnel. 

View photos of the awardees here

Charging an Electric Golf Cart May Pose Unexpected Health Hazards

Although very rare, the Lakeland Fire Department has recently responded to calls involving a home’s carbon monoxide (CO) detector being activated by hydrogen released from an electric golf cart’s battery while being charged.

In one particular instance, the home was entirely electric with no potential source for carbon emissions from a fossil fuel burning source. Fortunately, the homeowners had a carbon monoxide detector. The CO detector activated and LFD crews were called in to investigate. The crews, using specialized monitors detected readings for carbon monoxide emissions although there was no source for carbon monoxide in the home. Through thorough investigation the source of an emission was traced back to the home’s garage where an electric golf cart was being charged.

Electric golf carts use batteries that in good working condition should not produce any emissions, however in the event of a faulty or broken battery there is a potential for hydrogen to be emitted. The emitted hydrogen in turn creates the false positive reading on a carbon monoxide detector.

Excessive amounts of hydrogen can be harmful to humans and in the event of the incident referred to, the home’s occupants described similar symptoms to carbon monoxide poisoning such as headache, nausea, and dizziness. After concluding the investigation for an emission source, LFD crews ventilated the home and everyone returned safely inside.

Similar accounts of faulty golf cart batteries creating a false positive reading of carbon monoxide have been reported by other fire departments in the nation, particularly in areas with high concentrations of golf cart enthusiasts who depend on golf carts as part of their recreational lifestyle.

Lakeland has several communities where many homeowners have electric golf carts. LFD does not want to unnecessarily alarm the public but as a precaution would like to strongly encourage every electric golf cart owner to:

  • Ensure golf carts are well maintained and batteries are in proper working condition
  • Charge electric golf cart batteries in a well ventilated space
  • As a precaution, the department recommends all homes with a golf cart have a carbon monoxide detector to potentially detect any emissions

Although carbon monoxide detectors are not designed for the detection of other gases they have proven helpful in incidents like these. They also provide peace of mind and safety in detecting carbon monoxide which is a more likely hazard and has led to accidental poisonings of home occupants.

Beyond the obvious danger of fire, explosion and asphyxiation, little data is available indicating the health effects of long-term exposure to the gases given off during the battery charging process. The quantity required to cause death is very substantial. NFPA 704 identifies the health effects of hydrogen as being a 0. In addition, OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and Recommended Exposure Level (REL) are not set due to the fact that hydrogen is considered to be relatively safe below the flammable and explosive levels.

Even though hydrogen is viewed as being non-toxic, occupants in homes responded to by department personnel have complained of headaches, nausea, dyspnea, and vertigo. It is anecdotally believed that this may be caused by hydrogen’s displacement of oxygen in a fairly well-sealed home, and that the lower oxygen concentration may result in patients with the above symptoms.

For more information about carbon monoxide detectors visit

Highly Visible Address Markers Means Increased Safety

The Lakeland Fire Department would like to remind all residence and business owners to update and maintain their address markers so that in the event of an emergency, Firefighters and Emergency Medical Responders can find your location as quickly and efficiently as possible. An accurate and easily visible address is vital for rapidly locating a home or business in any emergency requiring fire, ambulance services, or law enforcement.

Address markers should be highly visible, near the roadway, and reflective.

“When the call for an emergency comes in, we want to get there as quickly as possible to begin helping. Thanks to prepared callers and smarter phone systems we often have the exact address of where we are needed, but not being able to find the address on the building once we arrive in the vicinity can delay our response.” says Battalion Chief Jeff Wharton, who too often sees this problem. “Every second counts, so a building owner can help us tremendously by making sure their location is clearly marked with an easy to see address marker that is highly visible during the day or at night.”

The Lakeland Fire Department would like to encourage everyone to check their address markers and ensure that they are:

  • Large and easy to see from the roadway from both directions
  • High enough off the ground that they won’t be covered
  • Be reflective, painted with reflective paint, or white against a dark background to ensure visibility day or night
  • If you have an electronic gate, please make sure that it is equipped with Knox Box® key override so that it can be opened in the event of an emergency

Lakeland’s Firefighters are very familiar with all of the streets and address patterns in the City’s service area and can quickly arrive in the area where the call for help is. Homes will often have address markers on the structure itself but can sometimes be set back from the road. Clear address markers near the roadway will help responders find the location and allow Lakeland’s Firefighters to focus on their response when every second counts.

The Lakeland Fire Department is saddened to share that Jesse T. Smith, who was a former Lakeland Fire Department Lieutenant, passed away on May 16, 2015.

Jesse was the oldest living retired fireman from the department. He was hired on September 1, 1953 and retired as a Lieutenant on July 2, 1984.

Visitation will be Tuesday, May 19, 2015, from 10 AM to 11 AM in the chapel at First Baptist Church at the Mall. Funeral services will follow at 11 AM at the church, with interment to follow at Oak Hill Burial Park.

Lt. Smith's Obituary: 

Mr. Smith was born in Lakeland on February 19, 1930, and remained a lifelong resident of the area. He served in the U.S. Air Force before beginning his career at the Lakeland Fire Department. He retired from the Lakeland Fire Department as Lieutenant, and was the oldest living retired fireman from the department. He also owned and operated Jesse T. Smith Heating & Air for 48 years. Mr. Smith was a member of First Baptist Church at the Mall and the Masonic Lodge. His hobbies included hunting and fishing. 
Mr. Smith is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Sue Smith; sons, M.D. (Saralinda) Smith and Keiland (Cindy) Smith; grandchildren, Daniel, Blake, Matthew, Jesse and Victoria Smith; great grandchildren, Braylon, Anniston, Emerson and Grace Smith. 

Visitation will be Tuesday, May 19, 2015, from 10-11 am in the chapel at First Baptist Church at the Mall. Funeral services will follow at 11 am at the church, with interment to follow at Oak Hill Burial Park. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Good Shepherd Hospice or Kathleen Baptist Church for Blake Smith Awesome Fishing Ministries Please note on donation "For Blake Smith Awesome Fishing Ministries." 

Lt. Jesse Smith

Lt. Smith (Ret.) participating in the 2014 Lakeland Christmas Parade with the Lakeland Fire Department

Firefighters Put on "Fashion Show" for Straight A Students

For the third year in a row the Lakeland Fire Department has recognized high achieving student as part of the Kiwanis of Lakeland’s Quarterly “A” Terrific Kids Luncheon for Blake Academy’s straight A students. To reward these high achieving students while teaching them a thing or two about the fire service, the department puts on a fire “fashion show”. The department’s Fire Chief Gary Ballard, a member of the Kiwanis for nearly five years, thought up the idea in 2012 and the event continues to be a big hit.

This year’s presentation was provided by Assistant Chief Doug Riley with the help of Station 1’s C Shift. They presented 5 different “looks” that fire fighters don in different emergency situations. Looks included: Bunker Gear, Paramedic Dress, High Angle Dress, SWAT Medic Dress, and ARFF Dress modeled by on duty firefighters.

Asst. Chief Riley explained the different gear and equipment the firefighters were wearing and the specialized uses the equipment provides. In addition to the firefighter’s strutting their stuff, each table at the luncheon had a specialized tool at its center as a centerpiece. Firefighters sat at the tables with the students during the lunch to interact and share more information about the unique tools. The experience was rather eye-opening to many of the students and even adults in attendance who may not have realized how diverse the emergency situations firefighters respond to might be or may not have known about the many tools used by firefighters to help in different situations. 

See pictures from the event here.


A Lakeland Boy’s Story of Recuperation

On the evening of September 1, 2012 at approximately 6:30 pm the Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) was dispatched to a harrowing call for help, to reports of a child struck by a vehicle. 3 year old O’mantae Thomas was struck and left severely injured as a result of the impact.

Minutes after the first calls came in, Lakeland Fire Department’s Rescue 32, Engine 31, and Battalion Chief 2 arrived on scene to find that O’mantae was not breathing and had suffered life threatening injuries. LFD has highly trained Firefighter/ Paramedics on all of its units and fortunately Station 3’s apparatus and crew, which are ALS units, were on hand that day to help O’mantae.

Skilled Firefighter/ Paramedics immediately took control of the scene and provided advanced patient care as well as immediately identified that a trauma alert had to be declared and the young boy needed to be transported via helicopter to receive the timely and critical hospital care he needed.  While LFD paramedics provided care to the boy and packaged him for transport, other crew members established landing zones and shifted gears to provide medical care to O’mantae’s family, who succumbed to the emotion of the event and needed medical help too.

O’mantae was left in critical condition after the accident but after two weeks in the hospital he was conscious again and by late November 2012 he was discharged from the hospital altogether. However his path hasn’t been easy, with extensive physical therapy necessary 3 times a week, even up to today, to reteach him essential skills he lost due to the injuries he sustained, like how to eat, walk, and speak. Yet he has triumphed!  

The whole incident came full circle recently, when O’mantae and his family came to visit the crew at Fire Station 3 during B-Shift. They were the ones who helped save him that day. He has been successful in his physical therapy and seeing him today, it would be hard to know he had ever endured so much. Today, 6 year old O’mantae is a happy, healthy, and rambunctious little boy. Rightfully so, he has a strong relationship with and affinity for LFD’s firefighters. He enjoys getting a chance to visit with the crew that made such a difference in his recovery.

Three years later O’mantae’s story serves as an example of the power of emergency medical response and how superior emergency medical care like the services provided by the Lakeland Fire Department can truly make a difference in saving a life. It is just one of the many things that impact quality of life in Lakeland and make it a great place to live.  

The crew that helped O’mantae was Firefighter/ Paramedic Mike Smith, Firefighter / Paramedic Jesse Synder, Lt. Jason Merrit, Lt. Harley Wilson, Battalion Chief James Niblack, Driver Engineer Curtis Giles, some of which are pictured with him in the photo when he came to visit with the crew in April 2015. 

View a video compilation of his visit here.

Firefighter/Paramedic Cody Ritenour Receives City of Lakeland Heroism Award

Firefighters inherently have the qualities you would expect in a hero. Helping others is what they do, and a lot of the skills and qualities they use on duty are used off duty as well. Cody was nominated for the City of Lakeland's Heroism Award based on an his actions off duty in helping at the scene of a violent car accident. He will be recognized at the City of Lakeland Commission meeting on April 6, 2015. The account is best summarized by the nomination narrative: 

"On February 15th, 2015 at approximately 9 AM, an unfortunate head-on collision took place in Osceola County on State Road 60. Cody Ritenour, a Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) Firefighter and Paramedic was several vehicles behind the incident when it occurred, while traveling home after completing his shift.

Upon noticing there was commotion up ahead, Cody made his way to the accident scene and found that bystanders had pulled a four year old girl and a six year old boy from one of the involved vehicles; it was quickly filling with smoke from an engine compartment fire. The driver of the vehicle was entrapped and was unresponsive. The fire was spreading quickly and with no way to put it out, Cody decided to instead attempt to get the victim out. He was unable to open the front doors without extrication equipment due to the severity of the crash. He made access into the vehicle through the back seat where he tried to free the entangled victim, yet was unsuccessful. The flames overcame the firewall and entered into the interior of the vehicle where the heat and smoke forced Cody to retreat.

Unable to continue helping the driver, Cody applied his training and experience in the field and turned his attention to the young children involved.  He noticed that the four year old girl was unresponsive but was breathing and had a pulse and that the six year old had suffered serious injuries but was alert. The driver of the other vehicle had minor injuries and was ambulatory. Cody sprang into action by calling 9-1-1, identified himself, and reported there was a vehicle fire and an unresponsive pediatric that will most likely need a helicopter (later, while working with the first arriving officer he confirmed that the helicopter was indeed requested).

Cody continued patient care after hanging up with the emergency operators by accessing the children’s vitals and listening to lung sounds with his personal stethoscope until further support could arrive. Cody directed several bystanders to assist him with the children until fire and EMS crews arrived. Once they arrived, Cody again identified himself and gave them the details of the scene. Cody assisted EMS with patient care and packaging the children for transport. A landing zone was established by crews on scene and two helicopters landed on State Road 60 to fly the children to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for Trauma Care in Orlando.

We cannot express enough how incredibly proud we are of Firefighter Ritenour. Not only did he risk his own life by attempting to save the driver of the accident from a burning vehicle, but he also put his training to work and took command of the scene. Cody triaged the victims and was able to assemble the necessary resources to give the remaining victims the care they needed and a fighting chance at survival.

Cody is a young man with less than two years of practical fire and medical training however he showed poise and composure beyond his years. At the time this recommendation was written it is unknown what the outcome of the children’s injuries were or what the future holds for them but we are certain that they have a better chance of recovery due to the actions taken by Cody Ritenour on that day.

On behalf of the entire Lakeland Fire Department, we would like to formally recommend Cody Ritenour for his heroism and that he be recognized through the City of Lakeland’s Heroism Award Committee for his actions that day, and for responding beyond his call of duty.

Lieutenant  Joseph Delegge " 

We are very proud of Cody for helping by using his skills and abilities during such an unfortunate incident to improve the outcomes.