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Lakeland Fire Department News


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

The Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) is pleased to announce the hiring of nine new firefighters that began duty on Monday, January 27, 2014. The new hires are filling vacancies from recent retirements of longtime LFD veterans and openings left as a result of internal promotions. 

The hiring process was highly selective because of the large pool of applicants. Nearly 200 firefighters applied during the weeklong period that applications were being accepted. Another opportunity for firefighter hopefuls will be available later this year when the department will hire nine additional firefighters in anticipation of the department’s new Fire Station # 7, currently under construction. The new station, near the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, is expected to be completed by December 2014 and will provide both Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) services to the airport as well as provide emergency services to residents and businesses in southwest Lakeland. 

“The selection process was difficult because there were many qualified candidates to choose from. Our hiring committee is confident that it selected the best available candidates and it’s comforting to know that the new rookies joining our ranks are highly skilled and qualified to continue providing the high quality emergency services our department is known for.” said Training Chief John Almskog, coordinator of the hiring effort.

Of the nine new hires one is already a certified paramedic while the other eight are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s), although the eight will have the opportunity to pursue paramedic training once on the job. 

The group of new hires is a young and diverse one, serving as a good representation of the community they will be serving in Lakeland. The new additions include a female firefighter, an African-American firefighter, and a Hispanic firefighter. Additionally, a majority of the new hires hail from central Florida and are graduates of area fire academies like the Ridge Career Center Fire Academy and Hillsborough Community College Fire Academy. 

The nine new firefighters will help significantly reduce current overtime costs to maintain minimum staffing at all stations. The new hires now bring the department to a total of 161 personnel whom, last year alone, responded to nearly 20,000 calls and serve nearly 100,000 residents within the department’s service area. 

See photos of the new recruits in action here


Over the course of three Saturdays in January 2014, the Lakeland Fire Department’s Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) team completed live fire training at the Mac Dill Air Force Base located in Tampa, FL.

The training sessions held on January 11, 18, 25 are part of annual re-certification requirements set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so that LFD can stay in compliance as an ARFF certified fire department. Of the department’s 150 firefighters, 40 are ARFF certified and ready to respond to aircraft emergencies of any nature, particularly at Lakeland’s Lakeland-Linder Regional Airport.


More photos available here.


The Lakeland Fire Department is fortunate to have some of the finest firefighters in the field today. Although all are great at what they do, some stand out as exceptional due to their work in the community and their abilities as trained professionals.

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 Knight of Columbus award is Firefighter and Paramedic Margaret Orozco.

Margaret is being recognized not only for being very good at what she does but also for her in depth volunteer work with burn camps benefiting young victims of fires, on both a state and national level.

Earlier in 2013 Margaret was recognized for her work in both the city of Lakeland’s Access newsletter and by Lakeland’s The Ledger which featured her in their Monday Morning profile series.

Congratulations to FF Orozco! The award ceremony will be held at Resurrection Catholic Church on Saturday, January 25, 2013 from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Firefighter and Paramedic Margaret Orozco. Photo courtesy of The Ledger.

Update: Photos from the ceremony held on Saturday, January 25, 2013

Update: March 01, 2014

The Knights of Columbus who awarded Firefighter Orozco with the Firefighter of the Year award have made a generous donation of $250.00 to the Children's Burn Camp in her name. This is in honor of Margaret's work with the group and service to her community. A big thanks goes to the Knights of Columbus for the generous donation to a worthy cause. 

The Lakeland Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue Light Technical Rescue Team #421 (USAR LTRT-421) was invited by the State of Florida to participate in the South Florida Exercise (SoFLEx) USAR Drill held in Palm Beach on January 8, 2014, and January 9, 2014.  The drill was a joint exercise with various USAR teams from around the state functioning together to perform a search and rescue mission after a natural disaster.  The scenario for this exercise was a Category 4 hurricane (Hurricane Brice) with sustained winds of 100mph that made landfall in Palm Beach County.  There were a total of eight LTRTs and four USAR Task Force Teams that were invited to attend this exercise.  The exercise was divided among two different locations, Palm Beach County State College and the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Training Center.

Upon arrival on day one the USAR LTRT-421 group encountered the scenario in full swing, having been made aware that the Hurricane had made landfall and caused extensive damage trapping several victims. Rescue activities for the Lakeland team on day one included rescuing victims from apartments. The team’s assignments over the two days also included breaching through four sections of concrete to make access into an “apartment” (large conex box) which had a floor collapse, shore the collapse in the “apartment”, and proceed to search into the “parking garage.”  Team members also participated by serving as live victims for drills involving highly trained Search and Rescue Dog’s, much like LFD’s very own Cabella and Primos, although they weren't in attendance. 

These exercises are very useful in training rescue professionals from around the state in the event that Florida is hit by a significant hurricane, a very real possibility. LFD’s USAR team is one of only a few in the state and would play a crucial role in rescuing the trapped living after a major natural disaster.  The exercise was not only a useful learning experience but also provides a good means for networking and interaction among teams, with teams interacting with each other to complete the search and rescue mission.  These exercises allow the teams to work together prior to an actual event.  The members are able to meet each other, learn the tactics of other teams, and get to the teams equipment cache.

LFD’s Light Technical Rescue Team-421 members that participated were:

  • Lt. Matt Brown-Team Leader
  • Lt. “Bubba” Geddings-Rescue Specialist
  • Lt. Matt Luttermoser-Rescue Specialist
  • Mike Wheelis-Logistics Manager
  • Luis Ortiz-Rescue Specialist
  • Todd Burney-Rescue Specialist
  • Jonathan Smith-Rescue Specialist




Newspaper article reporting the training event can be read here

More photos are available here


Content contributed by Lt. Matt Brown, USAR Coordinator for LFD.

Local residents, retired couple Ralph and Mary Capozzi, wanted to personally thank the firefighters responsible for saving Ralph’s life in a medical call ran on October 15, 2013 by LFD’s Engine 51. 

Ralph Capozzi was playing a game of racquet ball at the YMCA located at 3620 Cleveland Heights. After wrapping up the game, Ralph headed into the locker room to freshen up where he later fell unconscious. He was found unresponsive by a YMCA employee. The quick-thinking employee used an AED defibrillator, commonly found in most business today, to assist Mr. Capozzi until further assistance arrived. Emergency service were called and Engine 51’s crew quickly responded and provided basic life support services. Ralph made it through and is very grateful for the high quality service provided by Lakeland Firefighters, which he credits for saving his life. 

In a small ceremony held at Station 2 on January 16, 2014 , near the Cappozi’s home, the couple personally thanked each firefighter involved and presented a thank you card to Engine 51’s crew as well as the additional firefighters available at Station 2 during the gathering.

The Lakeland Fire Department is sincerely dedicated to providing the highest level of emergency service to its community. Heart-warming stories like these are a testament to that. Firefighters involved in the life saving call were Lt. Leon Boatwright, Driver Engineer Mike Thomas, and Firefighter Clayton Kiddey. 


Lt. Boatwright and FF Kiddey with Ralph and Mary Capozzi

Right to Left: D/E Henderson, FF Orozco, Lt. Boatwright, FF Kiddey, Mary Capozzi, Ralph Capozzi, Bat. Chief Williams

Thanking the Firefighters

The Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) is proud to announce that its Insurance Service Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification score has improved by an entire rating level from its previous score of 3, to a level 2. This increase may have significant influence in reducing insurance rates for Lakeland residents and businesses considering it plays a big role in how insurance companies - including the largest in the nation - figure rates and decision making in regards to who they underwrite.

The score, based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 representing the highest level of fire suppression standards and 10 indicating an unacceptable level of fire suppression, is produced by ISO through an extensive evaluation process. The department’s services, response times, equipment, personnel, training efforts, community outreach, and more were evaluated to develop a final score. That score in turn provides both insurers and the fire department a comprehensive measure to rate the quality of the fire protection they provide. In Lakeland’s case, its new PPC score of 2 indicates a very high level of fire protection.

“The men and women of the Lakeland Fire Department worked very hard to achieve this momentous goal. This is the first time in the history of the department, in the ISO era, that we have accomplished such a high level of public protection classification that can have very real and positive outcomes for the citizens of Lakeland.” said Training Chief John Almskog, who was instrumental in coordinating the review.

ISO auditors visited in July of 2013, during which Lakeland’s Fire Department, Water Department, and Police Communications Center were evaluated to come up with the final determination. Of the 682 ISO rated communities in Florida, only 40 have a level 2 classification placing Lakeland in the top 7th percentile. The LFD’s score of 2 was very strong, only 2 percentage points below a score of 1. The score is anticipated to become effective March 1, 2014.

Newspaper article reporting on the accomplishment can be read here



ISO PPC Scores for communities in the nation and in the state of Florida. Lakeland now ranks in the upper percentile for high quality fire suppression. Graphs courtesy of ISO Properties. 

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that the Lakeland Fire Department says goodbye to Fire Marshall (Ret) Larry Riles. Fire Marshal (Ret) Riles passed away unexpectedly on January 4, 2014. He served with the department for over 24 years. His career with LFD started as a Firefighter and within two years he became a Fire Inspector where he would later move through the ranks to eventually become the Fire Marshall. 


He was admired by many for his personable leadership style and the genuine connections he was known for making not only with fellow members of the department but also with the community he served. 


The Lakeland Fire Department extends its deepest sympathies to the entire Riles family and thanks Larry posthumously for his many years of service to the department and to the people of Lakeland.


Services for Fire Marshall (Ret) Larry Riles will be: 



Coney Funeral Home

1404 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave.

Lakeland, FL  33805

January 10, 2014 (Friday)

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm


Memorial Service

Victory Church Chapel

1401 Griffin Rd

Lakeland, FL  33810

January 11, 2014 (Saturday)

11:00 am



Serenity Gardens

3350 Mall Hill Dr.

Lakeland, FL  33810

(Across from Victory Church)


More information about Larry's impact on the LFD and his community is available here

Obituary information available here.

Condolences can be left here.




On December 24, 2103 Retired Lt. James (Smiley) Bush passed away at Lakeland Regional Medical Center of heart failure. The loss is mourned by the entire Lakeland Fire Department. Lt. (Ret) Bush, affectionately known as Smiley around the department, served with the department for 29 years. He left a big impact on the department, having served with the department during its most formative years. His legacy of community servitude in the fire service lives on through his son, Driver Engineer Anthony Bush who is an active member of the Lakeland Fire Department and has served for 23 years.

The Lakeland Fire Department extends its deepest sympathies to the entire Bush family and thanks James posthumously for his many years of service to the department and to the people of Lakeland.

More information about funeral arrangements is available here.