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Oakland Park Fire Rescue Honors Its Heroes After COVID Forced Postponement of Awards


The Awards Must Go On: Honoring Our Heroes

Last year normal changed for all of us. Life as we knew it had to be put on hold as we profoundly changed the way we live in order to battle a deadly pandemic. This caused many events to be postponed, including a new awards ceremony Oakland Park Fire Rescue had planned. So after battling a pandemic and waiting for more than a year to honor our City’s brave and selfless, Oakland Park Fire Rescue held their awards ceremony on May 26, 2021.
Marc Vermont, Oakland Park Fire Rescue’s Assistant Chief was the catalyst behind the new awards ceremony and as a result also served as the nominating committee’s chair and Master of Ceremonies for the event.

COVID-19 Pin

Vermont began the ceremony by presenting a pin that nobody had received before but that held great significance, the COVID 19 pin, which Vermont himself helped design. The pin was awarded to everyone in the department. It signifies that they all lived through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Awards

As the ceremony continued awards were given for years or service, good conduct, educational achievement, department commendation, unit citation, honorable service, meritorious service, life saving, Firefighter of the Year, Fire Chief’s award.
While all of our heroes are deserving of praise for their daily service to Oakland Parkers, below we highlight some of the most outstanding awards given during the ceremony.

Unit Citations

After the department commendations Vermont announced recipients of the Unit Citation award. This award is given to members or staff operating in a unit in a cited action. The award is determined based on nominations submitted by members of the Fire Department. Vermont read the nomination of the Unit which was submitted by Captain Jorge Ginzo:

Reviving a Patient

“On Wednesday, May 5, we received a call for drowning in a canal behind 3659 Northwest 17 Terrace at approximately 0244 hours. The original call was not correct. The caller is referencing the canal off 18th Avenue near the rear of another address. This required all of our units back out of a dead end road progress over to the correct location. Upon arrival Rescue 87… found one adult male on the back of a canal being assisted by BSO deputies already on scene. Deputies had initiated care by applying an AD performing chest compressions. Once our crews continued care, which was hampered by several factors, those being condition to the patient, numerous obstacles on the way to get to the patient, total darkness the backyard ultimately more obstacles that included the vehicle that was in disrepair and a boat trailer in front of the residence, which required a cooperative effort and by myself and other duties to clear path. Making things worse the crew had no information and the patient had a severe way compromise due to the amount of fluid in his lungs from the drowning. Rescue 87, Quint 87 crews led by the rescue supervisors should no hesitation or reservation in their approach to these obstacles and provide the highest level of care to this patient. The care was about a smooth and flawless I have seen in my career. There was a continuous communication by all, no breaking the continuity of care throughout the entire event. The assistance to BSO deputies on scene may ultimately made a huge difference in the outcome of this event. Upon arrival of the scene, the patient was unresponsive … and pulseless….Normally, I'm not part of this assignment, and I have only worked with them occasionally, when on overtime, so my experience with them is limited. However, I would like to add that this crew appeared to be cohesive professional and skilled the crew is I ever seen before, this is a credit to their officers and this department”.

Vermont concluded by conveying the main point of the nomination “So for those that don’t understand the medical jargon, basically, patient was completely dead and had a pulse upon arrival at the hospital”.

Responding to the roof collapse at Northeast High School

When the roof collapsed Oakland Park Fire Rescue responded to the incident and while the scene was chaotic, they were able to successfully coordinate the rescue effort.

" actually turned into what we call an MCI, a mass casualty incident. So we had two areas of command at that point, and multiple chaos, if you will, but it was organized chaos because of the leaders we had in those two areas of command. So I felt it was appropriate to recognize everybody that was involved in that call for doing a great job".

An Extra Special Unit Citation

Firefighters have their own families and then they have their firefighter family. For this reason this Unit Citation holds extra special significance. While Captain Dan Debrecht, was battling cancer and his crew and other members of his fire family rallied around him during his recovery at the hospital. 

Vermont explains: 

The way that situation played out was, as you can imagine, firefighters are rather stubborn. So he had to be convinced to go to the hospital. The crew that was with him is going to receive a Unit Citation along with everybody that spent time significant time at the hospital while he was recovering.

Some of the recipients of the extra special unit citation

Individual Awards

Awards were given to individual firefighters for distinction in the following areas :

  • Honorable Service – Assistant Fire Marshal Christopher French
  • Meritorious Service – Firefighter David Castillo
  • Meritorious Service – Lieutenant Omar Rodriguez
  • Life Saving Award – Firefighter Nicolas Eaton
  • Life Saving Award – Firefighter Jennifer Oltz
  • Firefighter of the year – Franklin Herrera
  • Fire Chief’s Award – Dr. John Cunha
  • Fire Chief’s Award -Captain Dan Debrecht
Firefighter Jennifer Oltz received the Life Saving Award

Firefighter of the Year

All of Oakland Park’s Firefighters have proven their excellence on the job. But one Firefighter in particular, stood out for his selflessness this year. That firefighter was Lieutenant Franklin Herrera.Chief Vermont explains how Lieutenant Herrera went above and beyond :

"...after completing fire officer two courses and will soon sit for the state exam, he continues to serve as Oakland Park Fire Rescue benevolent president ...he coordinated multiple events throughout the year such as collecting food for the pantry abroad at Thanksgiving time, collecting and delivering supplies and gifts to a resident family affected by a fire just prior to Christmas, coordinating and participating in a volunteer project to help the resident with home projects that they were left badly injured as a result of a vicious assault, coordinating, printing and selling Breast Cancer Awareness t-shirts and submitting the proceeds to a local charity. Also during this last year, he was affected by COVID like many of us were, after being promoted went above and beyond by working tirelessly in many different positions such as officer rescue supervisor and driver engineer to make up for the many absences that our department suffered due to the pandemic. At one point he had worked a total of seven days straight with two eight hour breaks in between. It is due to his many efforts to better our department and provide benevolence toward community that I nominate Lieutenant Herrera for firefighter of the year".

Franklin Herrera, Firefighter of the Year

Fire Chief's Award

There were two recipients of the Fire Chief’s Award, Dr. John Cunha and Captain Dan Debrecht. Chief Krivjanik spoke about why these two firefighters were receiving the award. He shared that without Dr. Cunha’s leadership leading the department during the pandemic things might not have worked out as well as they did. 

"I want you to know I hold this person in high regard. He is held in high regard. And just about every place he goes, which continues to confirm how I feel about him. And I know when I tell you his name, you're going to agree with me. I'd like to officially give dr. john Konya the fire chiefs award this year for your support and your wonderful guidance".

The second recipient according to Chief Krivjanik, “didn’t even take any thought, really, it just jumps out and yells at you“. For this reason Captain Dan Debrecht received the Fire Chief’s award. Krivjanik elaborated on why Captain Debrecht deserved the award : 

"I want to recognize this person for his struggle for his diagnosis of a brain cancer that you all support him on. But let me tell you something, it goes way past that. It goes past your determination and your desire to come back to this family. And then when you when you were healed, and you actually made it" the doctor called you the miracle man"...and that's exactly what happened in this department was a miracle, a life saving miracle ... and we have Dan with us again, for as long as he's gonna be with us... that determination and desire to get better to come back to us ...I wanted to take the moment this moment and recognize you for the inspiration that I seen in you and for the inspiration you provided to this entire family. And it was shown not by you just coming back, but by them being there for you. Absolutely amazing. Dan, I want to say congratulations. You're always part of this family. We love you to death. Keep doing what you're doing. Come on up."

Captain Dan Debrecht, recipeint of the Fire Chief's award, battled cancer to come out of retirement and back to Oakland Park Fire Rescue.

Photo Gallery of Awards

Slideshow of Awards Received

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Congratulations to our heroes!

COVID-19 may have forced the postponement of the  awards ceremony but while our heroes waited to be recognized they faithfully served us the entire year. Oakland Parkers are lucky to have firefighters that are so selflessly dedicated to serving its residents.

Congratulations to them all!


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