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Apopka Fire Department

Developing Story: A second AFD Safety Committee member resigns; Nelson calls 5pm press conference to respond

Echevarria: "I can’t be a part of something that compromises my values, my morals and just feels wrong"


The Apopka Voice has learned that a second Apopka Fire Department Safety Committee member has resigned. AFD Firefighter/Paramedic Pablo Echevarria sent a letter of resignation to committee members on Wednesday, December 14th informing them of his resignation. 

"I write to you today with deep regret that I am resigning from the safety committee," Echevarria writes. "Please understand that this decision comes after many conversations with my wife and many days of prayer. Please let me explain my position and the reason for my decision.

I was asked to join this committee by the former committee chairman Chief B. Bowman. I have a very busy life with other obligations to the Fire Fighter Association, Our Union Eboard, along with personal obligations. It was going to be an added task that would take more of my time away from family. But I decided to do it because it was something we needed as a department. With the passing of Austin Duran, it was something I felt needed to be done. I was excited that as a collective group we would be able to review and make recommendations to our fire Administration that could save a firefighter’s life and make sure we all go home safely.

Due to a conflict in schedule, I was not able to attend the last meeting. But I heard through other members of the committee that a letter was read from Chief Wylam explaining that as a committee we were not going to be allowed to participate in a critique of Austin’s Incident. That an ad-hoc committee had been formed and that the safety committee was not going to be allowed to be a part of it. I asked Chief Maynard in an email if the group received a copy of the email. He replied, “The letter was read and documented in the minutes.” I was informed that a copy of the letter was not provided to the safety committee members. The letter was mentioned in the minutes but was not written in its totality in the minutes of the meeting. This is concerning.

I already felt uneasy and was troubled about the unannounced meeting with the city attorney, where he had suggested that it may not be a good idea to have a critique by the safety committee due to the potential cost to the city with the pending litigation filed by Austin’s Family.

Now even more troubling to me is how the rest of the story has unfolded and this Ad-hoc committee has now been formed. The fact that two organizations and a legal team have absolutely no idea how we function as fire department and is going to critique a LODD of one of our own. With the exclusion of the safety committee that was formed in the name of Austin. Just does not seem right.

I am a man of integrity and honesty. I will tell you my thoughts and share my ideas even when I know others may not agree with me, but I will always be honest. I can’t be a part of something that compromises my values, my morals and just feels wrong. I have lost sleep over this and have asked God to please help me find peace with my feelings and to help me “Do the right thing.” Unfortunately, this does not feel like the right thing. My heart is telling me that it is time to separate myself from this and move on.

I pray that as a group you can do the work necessary with no restrictions and roadblocks so that others may live and go home.

Regretfully, Pablo A. Echevarria FF/PM Sta.-3"

Echevarria is a 27-year veteran firefighter and has been a member of the AFD for five years.

Last week, AFD Lieutenant Alex Klepper also resigned from the AFD Safety Committee. In his statement, Klepper cited City Attorney Michael Rodriguez and Fire Chief Sean Wylam as stopping the committee's post-incident critique of the June 30th incident at Fire Station #1 that took the life of AFD Firefighter Austin Duran as the primary reason for his resignation.

"The fire administration appears to be bending over backward to exclude us, its
own safety committee, from doing a simple Post Incident Critique," Klepper wrote. 

In a public records request, The Apopka Voice has also learned that, according to Klepper's statement, confirmed by AFD District Chief Gerald Maynard's response to Klepper, Rodriguez and Wylam instructed the committee to cease the Post Incident Critique.

"In regards to the post-incident critique, I also understand the importance of this process
and have advocated for it to be completed on many different occasions," Maynard writes. "If you remember, one of my first actions upon joining this committee was to start the
process for it to be completed. With that being said, we have been instructed by the City
Attorney and the Fire Chief that we cannot proceed forward at this time."
In questions emailed to Rodriguez, The Apopka Voice has also learned that Austin Duran's family has filed a notice of claim against The City of Apopka.
"It is the city’s policy not to comment on active litigation," Rodriguez responded. "On October 18, 2022, the City received a Notice of Claim from counsel for Duran’s family, which serves as the first step in litigation."

According to a public notice on the City's website, Nelson will respond to the resignations in a press conference he called for today at 5 pm at City Hall. The announcement was made on the following day - December 20th. 

This developing story will be updated in future editions of The Apopka Voice as more details are learned.
Apopka Fire Department, AFD Safety Committee, Apopka, City of Apopka, Apopka City Council, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson


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

  • MamaMia

    I finished listening to the Apopka City Council tonight, Dec. 21, even though it was a long one, and for Commissioner Becker, one who demands respect himself, he sure doesn't show respect to others, especially the mayor. He dominated the council with his rantings, referenced something the city was doing as "crap" and was a total smart-butt, know-it-all. Equally disrespectful was Commissioner Velasquez interrupting the mayor when he was giving the mayor's report, trying to speak about the press conference, and of course Becker had to jump in there, and interrupt too. If I was mayor, I would have gaveled both of your asses, and one more word, I would of informed ya'll that you were out of order, and I would have you both removed out of the council, right then and there. I saw camera guys filming, the tv crews, I suppose, so you all had to try to get your more than 15 minutes of fame. Shame on ya'll! It is getting beyond ridiculous!

    Wednesday, December 21, 2022 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Regarding the AFD safety committee, and their recommendations, in my experience, with all most all other cities, and counties, when an incident happens, and things go wrong, especially involving a death, it is various other organizations that do an in depth investigation, to prevent future tragedies. Fire departments, police departments, and various businesses, that have had fatal accidents. This is what is being done. The incident is being investigated. The entity itself, usually doesn't investigate their own, in an accident that serious. I also understand when there is pending lawsuits, no one is expected to be discussing things. Why can't some of the commissioners on the Apopka City Council understand that?

    Thursday, December 22, 2022 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Interesting all the keyboard critics, behind the scenes, on social media websites, offering up their constant criticisms of both the city, the mayor, and his administration, and certain city employees, and the city attorney......so many critics that want to run the show, and criticize, but DON'T EVEN LIVE IN THE CITY OF APOPKA! They live in unincorporated Orange County, Alabama, and Boston. I guess you all aren't interested in your own jurisdiction governments.

    Thursday, December 22, 2022 Report this

  • MamaMia

    We just drove by the Wendy's Restaurant on 436 in Apopka (Seminole County) across from the cemetery, and it is on fire. We passed about 4 or 5 fire engines speeding that way. Several fire trucks already on the scene, this day after Christmas.

    Monday, December 26, 2022 Report this