Thank you: Clermont fire team praised for helping Panhandle

Florida CFO and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis greets members of the Clermont Fire Department during a recent presentation. // City of Clermont photos

Seven Clermont Fire Department members were part of a disaster recovery team deployed to the Panhandle in October 2018 after Hurricane Michael devastated the region.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed. Florida Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis recently visited Clermont Fire Station No. 1 to personally thank the group with handwritten letters, a news release states. Jimmy was born and raised in Panama City and represented the Panhandle from 2006-2014 in the state House of Representatives.

“I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you,” he said during a ceremony attended by city staff, officials, and family members. “I can’t repay you for what you’ve done, but I’ll guarantee you you’ll always have an advocate in Tallahassee.”

Clermont Fire Chief Carle Bishop thanked Jimmy for the recognition, as well as city administrators and officials for allowing his department to provide 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,” the chief says in the release.

Clermont Fire Marshal Jennifer Pierce also expressed her appreciation for Jimmy’s support, and Lt. Jeremiah Plasters presented him with a challenge coin from his trip.

Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on homes across the Panhandle.

Jeremiah was among the first to deploy Oct. 10 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, Jennifer reported to the state 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, the release states.

Soon after, engineer Blake McCorkle and firefighter/EMT 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 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.

Clermont Mayor Gail Ash praised the efforts of the seven department members.

“We’re so proud of the brave men and women in our fire department,” she says. “These seven brought hope during a devastating time in the Panhandle, and they make an impact every day in Clermont.”

More than 140 fire rescue responders from Central Florida were deployed in the wake of the storm to provide lifesaving efforts, the release states. It is believed to be the largest fire rescue deployment since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

From left, Clermont City Manager Darren Gray, Fire Chief Carle Bishop, Florida CFO and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis, Lt. Jeremiah Plasters, firefighter/paramedic Scott Padgett, engineer Kenny Thompson, firefighter/EMT Mike Rock, engineer Blake McCorkle, Lt. Bryan Bull, Fire Marshal Jennifer Pierce, and Clermont Mayor Gail Ash pose in front of Station No. 1.