A state dignitary recently made a special trip to recognize several members of the Clermont Fire Department.
Florida Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis visited Clermont Fire Station #1 on Feb. 7. He delivered handwritten thank-you letters to seven members of the Clermont Fire Department who deployed to the Florida Panhandle to help after Hurricane Michael devastated the region.
Patronis was touched by their service and personally expressed his gratitude.
“I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you,” Patronis told them while standing in front of the station on State Road 50 alongside Clermont Mayor Gail Ash, City Manager Darren Gray and Fire Chief Carle Bishop. “I can’t repay you for what you’ve done, but I’ll guarantee you you’ll always have an advocate in Tallahassee.”
Patronis spoke to the crowd of staff, families and media about his personal connection to the area affected by one of the most horrific storms in recent history. He was born and raised in Panama City and represented the Florida Panhandle in the Florida House of Representatives from 2006-2014.
Next, Bishop thanked Patronis for the recognition, as well as the city manager, mayor and council for allowing Clermont Fire Department to participate in providing resources.
“I am proud to be able to share the skills and abilities of the men and women of the Clermont Fire Department to help save lives and improve the living conditions of the victims of these major disasters,” Bishop said. “We are extremely grateful for Chief Patronis to take time out of his busy schedule to personally thank the members who participated in the disaster recovery of Hurricane Michael.”
Ash, in turn, expressed her reverence for the members.
“We’re so proud of the brave men and women in our fire department,” Ash said. “These seven brought hope during a devastating time in the Panhandle, and they make an impact every day in Clermont.”
Patronis looked through photos taken by the honorees of their time in the Panhandle while they chatted.
“We appreciate all your support for us,” Clermont Fire Marshal Jennifer Pierce told Patronis.
Also, Lt. Jeremiah Plasters presented Patronis with a challenge coin from his trip.
Plasters was among the first to deploy on Oct. 10, 2018 with Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He spent 10 days in some of Northwest Florida’s hardest hit areas, including Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe. Task Force 4 specializes in structural collapse, swift water rescue, wide area search and hazardous materials.
Two days later, Pierce reported to the State of Florida Emergency Operations Center in Tallassee as a member of the State Regional 5 Type III All-Hazards Incident Management Team. Shortly after arriving, she was assigned to field operations in a tri-county area of the Panhandle.
Soon after, Engineer Blake McCorkle and Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Rock departed with Lake County’s Strike Team 501 to the neglected areas of Panama City and Chattahoochee for a 10-day deployment. They were relieved by Clermont’s second strike team, consisting of Strike Team Leader Lt. Bryan Bull, Engineer Kenny Thompson and Firefighter/Paramedic Scott Padgett, who continued the mission of providing fire and emergency services to the area.
More than 140 fire rescue responders from Central Florida were deployed in the wake of the storm to provide lifesaving efforts. It is believed to be the largest fire rescue deployment since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The Clermont Fire Department embodies the City of Clermont’s “Champion” spirit, going above and beyond to provide exceptional services.