City Home  > LFD >Lakeland Fire Department News

Lakeland Fire Department News


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

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. 


The Lakeland Fire Department would like to recognize Battalion Chief Mike Williams as the department's first and only graduate (so far) of the Florida Fire Chief’s Association (FFCA) Emergency Services Leadership Institute! Great Job!

The intensive program consist of six 2 -3 day leadership courses delivered by some of the most influential leaders in the Florida Fire Service. Bat. Chief Williams completed his last class and graduated on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

The Emergency Services Leadership Institute (ESLI) program is sponsored and hosted by the Florida Fire and Emergency Services Foundation (FFESF) in the interest of addressing contemporary leadership issues that affect Mid-Level and Chief Fire Officers. The focus and content of the six-course Institute is consistent with upper level academic achievement and addresses issues that are either not prominent in other curricula or not structured in a manner that allows for an integrated learning experience over a two to three day period per course. While the institute is comprised of six courses, each individual course is designed to stand alone as a specific educational experience. The six courses will be offered on a two-year revolving basis. The Institute is designed to allow a participant to start and finish with any course and can be taken in any sequence. The 6 courses are Human Resources and Labor Relations; Personal Qualities, Leadership, and the Organization; Government Relations and Public Policy; Marketing Fire and Emergency Services; Finance and Budgeting and Emergency Management.

Congratulations to Battalion Chief Williams for a job well done and thanks for blazing the trail as both a learner and leader for other LFD Officers.

Incident @ 2050 E Edgewood Drive Lakeland, FL:

A Uhaul truck hit the corner of a 6 unit apartment building. The impact and location of where the truck hit put the rest of the building in jeopardy of further collapse, creating a high risk situation. LFD's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team was immediately called to the scene to help prevent further collapse or injury. 10 firefighters were on scene. Lakeland is fortunate to have USAR trained firefighters, avoiding delays in response or the need for outside fire departments to assist.

Six families have been displaced as a result and the building is deemed uninhabitable for the time being. The apartment building's insurance coverage is providing lodging for the displaced families. LPD secured area and Lakeland Electric was on scene to cut power to the building. The truck hit near the electrical meters of the structure.

As of 1:30 PM the building was secured and the rental truck was removed. Crews have since cleared the scene.

There were no injuries.



Images are available here

First Year Firefighter Transition Ceremonies

The Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) recently marked an important moment in the career of 7 of its newer members. Ceremonies were held for firefighters hired in January 2014 to mark a successful first year with the department and their transition from “Rookie” Firefighters to “Regular” Firefighters. These 7 firefighters successfully made it through LFD's rigorous hiring process, new hire orientation, and a yearlong probation period that includes multiple skills, physical abilities, and knowledge assessments. Firefighters Rinshed, Lobascio, Stephens, Forrester, Rice, Jackson, and Hubeck celebrated their transition from probationary to regular firefighters in the company of family, friends, and colleagues.

The ceremonies held January 26-28, 2015, marked the completion of the Personal Qualification Standards that the department uses to vet only the finest candidates. This probationary period is designed to ensure that new additions live up to the department's standards and are cut out for a difficult line of work in the fire service. LFD is experiencing rejuvenation in its workforce with these 7 young firefighters coming on board last year. These firefighters fill vacancies left by retirements and help meet staffing needs created by the department's new Fire Station 7, which became operational in early January 2015.


February is National Black History Month. The City of Lakeland has declared this year’s celebration for the month long reflection of African American’s contributions as “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture" to help chronicle the important contributions of Black Americans. 

The Lakeland Fire Department is proud to have several black firefighters who help make the department a better place and have done so since 1976. 

LFD’s very own Battalion Chief James Niblack was recognized this past Sunday at  church (Greater St. Paul) as part of their “Brother’s Keeper” program  for his contributions to his community and for inspiring fellow members of his church (pictured) to pursue promising careers in Public Safety as a way of giving back, as he has. Pictured from left to right are Polk County Firefighter Adam Williams, B/C James Niblack, and Winter Haven Police Officer Ladarius Cooper. 

Learn more about African Americans in the Fire Service from the brief summary below: 

The men and women who serve on the front lines as firefighters, rescuing citizens in harm’s way, should be saluted daily for their bravery. In one of the most-dangerous and selfless occupations in the world, firefighters risk their lives for the safety of others at a moment’s notice.   Several sources, including the richly detailed website from historian Mike Legeros, all point to the summer of 1817 as being the earliest record that Black firemen existed in New Orleans, La. Although Black men stamping out blazes could have happened before then, there is no real evidence available in capturing this historic truth. According to Legeros, 1821 and 1833 also show evidence of freed men joining firemen ranks in New Orleans, but like before, the records were poorly kept and the facts disjointed.   In Philadelphia, a band of African-American men who had fireman aspirations joined as the African Fire Association in 1818. In Charleston, Sc., 10 fire houses manned by Black men were reportedly present but they worked without pay.   Patrick H. Raymond of Cambridge, Mass., is universally regarded as the first African-American fire chief. Born in 1831, the Civil War veteran joined the department sometime in the 1850s. He became the chief engineer of the Cambridge Fire Department in January 1871, holding his post for eight years. He passed away in the summer of 1894.   Another historic first was volunteer firewoman Molly Williams of the Oceanus Volunteer Fire Company. In 1818, she would be the first female firefighter after working for the New York firehouse.   Much later, after the strides of the Civil Rights Movement, Robert O. Lowery served as the first Black fire commissioner of a major city. Lowery helmed his New York post from 1966 to 1973. During Lowery’s tenure, the International Association of Black Firefighters was established in 1970.   Black women have also made valuable contributions to firefighting. Toni McIntosh of Pittsburgh, Pa., became the first Black woman to become a career (full-time) firefighter in 1976. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, Cecelia Owens-Cox was the first woman to be assigned to a New York City truck company in 1984 as well. Chief Rosemary Cloud became the first African-American woman chief for a career fire department in East Point, Ga., in 2002.   Information courtesy of D.L. Chandler

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. The first of these recognitions for “Firefighter of the Year” is given by the Knights of Columbus of Lakeland.

Several nominations were submitted by LFD firefighters for their peers and this year’s winner for the Knights of Columbus Firefighter of the Year award is Firefighter and Paramedic Petur Leonard.

Petur is being recognized for his medical abilities in the field and particualry for a call last year invlvoing a small child who was saved as a result of Petur and his crew’s actions.

The following narrative submitted by his then lieutenant outlines the events that led to his award:

On September 14, 2014, Rescue Truck (R- 42) was dispatched to an emergency call for a “child not breathing; doing CPR”.  R-42 Driver Engineer (D/E) / Paramedic Petur Leonard and Firefighter / Paramedic Jonathan Forrester immediately responded to the call.

Due to the nature of the call and the possibility of complications, Station 4 Officer, Lieutenant Chuck Davis, decided to also respond to the call with R-42 on Engine 41 (E-41) with its respective crew. 

Rescue 42 arrived on scene first. Lt. Davis arrived on E-41 shortly after and upon entering the home witnessed D/E Leonard rendering medical care on the floor doing chest compressions on the infant patient; all awhile calmly and accurately providing lifesaving orders to the other medical responders on scene.

A few minutes after arriving and beginning compressions on the infant, the patient’s eyes and mouth opened and the child gasped for breath. He had been resuscitated.

D/E Leonard continued with CPR to complete the recommended two minute cycle. At rhythm check during CPR, D/E Leonard found the infant had regained a pulse although the child was not breathing on its own. 

While the other emergency responders assisted at the scene in getting the necessary equipment out and ready for further medical care, D/E Leonard intubated the infant and drilled an Interosseous (IO) needle into the infant’s leg for Intravenous (IV) access for medications and fluids. Petur performed multiple medically complex procedures that are arguably responsible for saving the young patients life.

The work Firefighter/Medics perform in the field is heavily based on teamwork and the assistance of fellow emergency response professionals. In this situation, several crew members worked together to assist in saving this child’s life, as expected of them.  However, the actions taken by Petur Leonard should be noted as having a significant impact on this situation, resulting in such a positive, life-saving outcome.

Congratulations to Firefighter Leonard and job well done! The award ceremony to honor Petur was held at Resurrection Catholic Church on Saturday, January 31, 2013 from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.






Lakeland Firefighters Will be Hitting the Streets February 2 to Install

Smoke Alarms Where Needed Most


Firefighters from the Lakeland Fire Department (LFD), Community Educators from the Lakeland Police Department (LPD), and members of the American Red Cross will be hitting the streets and visiting local residents door to door in Central Lakeland on Monday, February 2, 2015 to perform free smoke alarm inspections and installing smoke alarms as needed from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

This effort is a result of a partnership between LFD and the American Red Cross’ who recently kicked off a national campaign to reduce deaths and injuries through the use of smoke alarms in neighborhoods with higher numbers of home fires.

During the smoke alarm installation program, firefighters and community volunteers will fan out to homes surrounding Fire Station 3, located at 110 W. Bella Vista Lakeland, FL  33805 . This is area is targeted because statistically there is a higher prevalence of life threatening emergencies in this area vs. others in Lakeland .

Installing smoke alarms in the homes of Lakeland residents who don’t have them will increase their odds of surviving a home fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), working smoke alarms are the key to saving lives from fire. “Smoke alarms are the most effective early warning device there is,” says LFD Fire Marshall Frank Bass. “Just having a smoke alarm in your home cuts your chance of dying in a reported fire in half.”

“Our goal is to make sure residents have the protection of a smoke alarm,” says Project Manager Steve Thompson of the American Red Cross who helped coordinate the effort “because smoke alarms alone won’t prevent every fire death, our project includes educating residents to have a home fire escape plan so they know what to do if the smoke alarm sounds.”