At the regular Hernando County Board of County Commissioners meeting on June 22, 2021, Deputy Fire Chief James Billotte of Hernando County Fire and Emergency Services recognized Hernando County Sheriff's Deputies and Fire Rescue members for their bravery during two separate structure fires that occurred on May 13th and June 7th, respectively.
Deputy Kevin Keiper, Deputy Dakota Hadsell, Deputy Matthew Beebe, and Deputy Elizabeth Croan were the first responders at an incident that occured on May 13th. At approximately 1:58 AM, Hernando County Fire Department responded to a reported fire at the 800 Block of St. Frances St. It was reported that a sole occupant, due to disability, was unable to escape and was trapped. The occupant was in imminent danger due to the rapid spread of fire.
Although the first fire engine was on-scene within three minutes, time was of the essence. The four deputies mentioned were in the area and were the first on the scene and arrived before the fire department. Aware of the gravity of the situation, the deputies rushed into the domicile in very dangerous and rapidly deteriorating fire conditions and pulled the occupant to safety as firefighters were arriving on the scene. Emergency service paramedics took over at that time to care for and transport the patient to the hospital, while firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.
“If it was not for the immediate actions of deputies, the occupant of the home would have likely suffered serious injuries or death.” Billotte stated, “So, I wanted to take the time to thank each one of these deputies for their participation.” Billotte continued by presenting a certificate to each of the deputies, thanking them for their services on behalf of the Hernando County Fire Department and for risking their lives and for a job well done that night. Billotte finished by stating that he wasn’t sure if they could have done it without them that night. The County Commissioners ended by thanking the deputies for all of their hard work everyday and especially for their courageous act on the morning of May 13th.
Billotte went on to recognize the fire rescue staff who, on June 7, 2021, risked injury as well as their lives to rescue a resident trapped in a structure fire on Elgrove Street in Spring Hill. Reaching the victim, the team was able to transport the victim to a local hospital in critical condition. Though the patient later succumbed to their injuries, Billotte regarded their actions as heroic. “The actions of these firefighters gave the victim the best possible chance in these circumstances.”
Billotte commended Captain Danny Papa, Captain Derek Chechile, Driver Engineer Steven Kelly, Firefighter Colby Ackerman, Firefighter Tim Sinnott, Firefighter Thomas Nickola, Firefighter Anthony Gutierrez, Firefighter Dylan Hagar, Firefighter Jeremy Bonczek, and Battalion Chief Marcus Zopf for their swift response.