Orlando Fire Department honors firefighters for work during Pulse response

By Erin Murray , Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2017, 11:15 PM EDT

Their names may not be the ones heard in daily conversation, but they are the names of those who save lives when the call comes.

  • Orlando Fire Dept. held annual awards ceremony
  • Firefighters were honored for their response to the Pulse tragedy
  • Honorees included 911 dispatchers, members of the bomb squad

“Manuel Soto, April Taylor, Lt. Jackson Maddox, Lt. Mitchell Sanders,” read the emcee for the Orlando Fire Department Medal Day Ceremony. “Deputy Chief Harvey Jones, Lt. Juanita McDonald, District Chief Joseph McCluan Jr.”

These men and women, along with many others under the Orlando Fire Department, responded on June 12, 2016. The day of the Pulse nightclub tragedy.   

“Assistant Chief Hezedean Smith, District Chief Christopher Spurlin, Lt. Aaron Pielin,” the emcee continued.

The roles recognized Thursday night inside a Valencia College auditorium ranged. Some were the 911 dispatchers, a command chief, the bomb squad members, those in the emergency operation center, and the firefighters on the first engine to arrive at the scene for Pulse, Engine 5B.   

“When we were walking out to get on the engine, we could hear the gunfire, so we couldn’t actually begin to treat patients until there was enough of a police presence there to secure the scene,” said Davis Odell Jr., with the Orlando Fire Department.

Once secure, Odell’s unit began stabilizing the victims who were most severely wounded.

“We know realize that every time that gun was going off somebody’s kid was getting killed. At the time we were trying to process what we were hearing, but because of the enormous amount of shooting going on, but now it’s more of a sad reflect of the fact this mad man chose us in our neighborhood,” said Odell Jr.   

Numerous others were recognized for Pulse, but also for other heroic acts throughout the year.

Odell said he is proud of everyone recognized.

“Not only are they my colleagues, comrades and friends, I live in the city of Orlando these particular individuals cover my wife and children, while I cover someone else’s wife and children. So I am extremely proud to be an Orlando fire fighter,” said Odell Jr.   

Some of those other awards went to firefighter of the year and chief of the year. As well as fire fighters who resuscitated people, battled extraordinary fires, helped with silver alerts and made rescues.

They also remembered those lost over the past year.