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National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend

Austin Duran to be honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend ceremony


Austin Duran's tragic death in 2022 shocked the community and tore apart the morale of the Apopka Fire Department. Duran, a 25-year-old rookie Firefighter/EMT, was charged with putting a sand trailer onto an AFD vehicle with no training or experience with the apparatus, which had previously been taken out of service for years because of its potential danger.

Despite the questionable decision to put two rookie firefighters in a position of peril, neither the administration nor AFD leadership ever fully investigated the incident, and no one was held accountable after almost two years.

But Duran's death was by no means in vain. 

Gannon Emergency Solutions was hired by the City, which published a comprehensive report detailing many below-standard practices and making recommendations, many of which have been instituted. In 2022, the AFD hired additional firefighters at the insistence of Austin's father, Michael, and the Apopka City Council. Duran was also voted as the 2022 AFD Firefighter of the Year by his fellow firefighters. 

His legacy, while tragic, is also inspiring.

And now, Duran's memory and sacrifice will live on with other fallen firefighters throughout the nation.

The 2024 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend will be a somber yet uplifting event that honors the bravery and sacrifice of firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

This annual event, which takes place in Emmitsburg, Maryland, pays tribute to those heroic individuals by bringing together firefighters, their families, and other community members.

Apopka Firefighter/EMT Austin Duran.
Apopka Firefighter/EMT Austin Duran.

On its website, the National Fallen Firefighters Weekend Memorial describes Duran with this bio:

"Austin was instantly liked by anyone who met him. People were drawn to his gentle demeanor, fun personality, and easygoing manner. In Austin’s school career he played AAU baseball and football and received an award for Most Improved Player for both sports. Growing up, Austin and his sister, Sierra, shared a special bond and were not only siblings but best friends. His love for Mustangs was eventually surpassed by his love for trucks and his Ford F-150. As an adult he enjoyed playing Xbox, spending time with friends and family, kayaking at the springs, and going to theme parks. Austin valued family and was always close to home to drop in for dinner, to visit after shift, or to help his mom. He loved all of the holiday traditions and playing games around the dining room table.

Austin found his calling at an early age, joining the Explorers in high school. After high school, he completed both Standards and EMT and joined the Apopka Fire Department at the height of COVID in July 2020. He continued his service and education, taking 700+ hours of training over the next year and a half. He was so excited when he passed the class to be a relief driver for the engine. He regarded the people he worked with not as coworkers but as brothers and sisters, and the AFD soon became his second family. Austin was tragically injured while on duty on June 30, 2022, and succumbed to his injuries two weeks later on July 15, 2022, at the age of 25.

His passing brought to light several issues within the department. Found posthumously, Austin wrote a letter where, in his words, he envisioned a fire department culture dedicated to enhanced training and mentorship. His aspiration was to nurture an environment where seeking help is embraced, fostering a collective drive toward comprehensive improvement. This generated many changes in the Apopka Fire Department and is the basis of The 2650 Foundation. Named after his ID number at the AFD, the foundation was created to extend and offer training, education, and mentorship to other firefighters.

Austin has left an undeniable impact that will live on in all our hearts and souls. Austin’s parents, Mike and Gail, and his sister, Sierra, are here today. Rest easy, Austin. We will take it from here."

The weekend will begin with the arrival of the National Fire Service Honor Guard and the lighting of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Flame. This symbolic flame will burn throughout the weekend in memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

On Saturday morning, a procession of firefighters and fire departments from across the country will make their way to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in downtown Emmitsburg. The solemn ceremony will include the reading of the names of firefighters who have died in the line of duty over the past year, as well as the ringing of the bell to signify the end of their service.

Sunday morning will begin with a memorial service at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which sponsors the event, is also hosting a number of other activities throughout the weekend. It promises to be a moving and memorable event that honors the bravery and sacrifice of firefighters who have given their lives in service to their communities.

It's a fitting tribute to the sacrifice and service that Austin Duran and so many other firefighters displayed in the line of duty.

Apopka Fire Department, Austin Duran, National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, Firefighters, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, How can I contribute to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend?


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