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The Austin Duran Vigil

Apopka honors Austin

Community, elected officials, firefighters, family and friends express their thoughts and emotions about the fallen firefighter


Michael Duran took a deep breath but then broke into tears before speaking about his son to the mourning crowd in Apopka on Friday night. The air was filled with the soft glow of candle lights, illuminating the faces of those gathered to pay their respects.

One year after the tragic accident of firefighter Austin Duran, the Apopka community still remembers.

A crowd of nearly 200 friends, families, and members of the Apopka Fire Department gathered during a vigil memorial on Friday night to remember and pay tribute to the firefighter's life.

Duran was 25 years old when he was tragically injured at work on June 30th, 2022, as he and a co-worker moved a sand trailer. Duran was hospitalized due to the injuries and fought for weeks, but eventually passed away on July 15th, 2022. 

The vigil was held across the street from Fire Station One, the exact location of the accident. 

All five Apopka City Council members were present at the memorial and held white and red roses along with the rest of the attendees to pay their respects to the Duran family. 

Commissioner Diane Velazquez said that the number of people who attended the vigil showcased a supportive community. However, she shared that she feels like there is still more to do. 

"I just wish that we and the City could do more for him and his family," said Velazquez. "It's not where do we to start; it's how do we reach the point where we've done everything that we needed to do for his family?"

The fatal accident sparked an investigation into the department's management process. According to an independent report, the lack of proper training may have played a role in the injury that ultimately led to the firefighter's death. 

Velazquez said there had been significant improvements in the Apopka Fire Department and that her motivation to ensure that all the necessary changes are made comes from a diary left by Duran.

"He left us with a diary, and in his diary, he talked about what the fire department needed for training because of his own experience, and so we are trying to fulfill that need that he didn't have," Velazquez said.

Commissioner Kyle Becker was present at the vigil with his family. He said Duran greatly impacted Apopka and encouraged the community to work towards ensuring that his legacy lives on. 

"Firefighter Austin Duran is a hero. His contributions to Apopka Fire and our city will be long-lasting, even though we were blessed to have him for only a brief time. The legacy he aspired to leave should be the one we all strive to achieve in his honor," said Becker. "The Becker family's hearts and thoughts continue to be with the Duran family, his AFD family, his many friends, and the countless in this community as they continue their healing journey." 

Commissioner Alexander Smith said coming to the vigil was essential to ensure Austin Duran's memory and sacrifices are not forgotten.

"When an individual gives his all to the career that he has chosen, and he lives his life in pursuit of that career, it's important that we don't forget the sacrifice he made," said Smith. "We need to let the family know we're here to stand with them in this."

Smith said that to maintain the protection of firefighters, the City has implemented new divisions within the fire department and safety staff coordinators to ensure that firefighters are adequately trained and equipped to handle emergencies. 

"A lot of this that they do on the job may or may not be covered in the academy, so by having that safety officer on board, we're ensuring that all of our firefighters are trained properly for the job, especially new firefighters," said Smith.

For Commissioner Nick Nesta, one of the most gratifying things has been seeing how much closer the Apopka community has become. 

"What I think was awesome is the amount of people that did come out here and just seeing the community come together, and really, they came together from day one," said Nesta. "His memory is going to be here forever. His impact on the community will never go away. 

Moving forward, Nesta shared that his aim for the AFD is to guarantee that it is appropriately staffed and that the department is properly equipped to continue to grow. 

The most prominent advocate for reformation in the AFD has been Michael Duran, the father of the deceased firefighter. Meeting after meeting, he has been consistently vocal about the need for change in the management team. 

“When his dad shows up to every council meeting, it's always a reminder that we haven't done everything,” said Velazquez. “He's the one that tells us, ‘You need to do this so that someone else doesn't suffer like we are,’ and that takes a lot.”

Commissioner Velazquez said that Michael Duran had become a beacon for the city council through his commitment to bringing about positive change within the AFD.

“When I feel like I'm failing him, he says, ‘You are doing the right things. We’ll get there.' I don't know where the finish line is, but the goal is to get to the point where we all feel we have honored Austin for his sacrifice.”

Apopka, Apopka Fire Department, Austin Duran, Vigil, Memorial


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • MelissaW

    Love this. ❤️

    Monday, July 3, 2023 Report this

  • Richard

    Commissioner Smith is correct. A person was assigned as Training Coordinator. Problem is that one person is not enough to properly train more than 120 firefighters. The Gannon safety report clearly showed that a “ Division Chief “ with no division of people is unsafe. We will hope that Chief Wylam during budget workshops asked for funding to increase the Training “ Division “ appropriately. The Director of training clearly need more hands and help. Add a Training Captain, and a Training Lieutenant to this Division. Safety and Training is paramount. This city, the Duran family, and Austin have already paid the ultimate sacrifice for lack of training and supervision.

    Monday, July 3, 2023 Report this

  • MDuran

    @Richard- you are correct. The budget needs to reflex ample funding for safety and training. Funding for firefighters training. $300.00 a year is not nearly enough. We need actual divisions. I have no idea why we have a division chief and no personnel other than him being considered a division’

    We hope to see an aggressive budget this year. The city is growing and the department has certainly grown this year.

    Monday, July 3, 2023 Report this

  • MamaMia

    The Austin's Army wrap on MD's pickup truck is a nice tribute. Happy 4th of July everyone! Someone was firing off fireworks in the cemetery next to the dog park. I suppose over their loved one's grave awhile ago. If you need a big old ski boat, there is a red and white one dumped and abandoned behind Big Lots in Apopka. The identification was removed and windshield is broken.

    Tuesday, July 4, 2023 Report this