Life and times of Key Biscayne florida


August 14th, 2013

New firefighter honored as top recruit in his fire academy class

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 he City of Miami Fire Academy is as notorious for its success at turning out well-trained new firefighters as it is for its grueling program.
Key Biscayne Fire-Rescue has always been a beneficiary of that reputation – its close relationship with Miami Fire-Rescue means it sends its new recruits through the city’s program – and never has that been more true than with one of the local department’s newest hires.
Eduardo Fraga, introduced as a new Key Biscayne firefighter/paramedic during a recent awards ceremony, is the top graduate of his academy class as winner of the prestigious Padron Award.
Fernando Fernandez, City of Miami Deputy Chief of Operations, said the award is a huge honor.
“The City of Miami Fire Academy runs a very, very tough program – one of the most difficult processes in the country,” Fernandez explained. “We put them through a rigorous 20-plus week training program. We put them through a lot of tough challenges, physical and academic.”
When it’s all said and done, instructors get together to select who they’ll honor with the Padron Award, named for legendary City of Miami firefighter Manuel Padron.
Fernandez said the winner can have no demerits, no failed exams, no failed objectives – criteria only a handful of students even meet. From there, instructors look at every report, every score and every objective before deciding who will earn the honor of outstanding recruit.
“Imagine the impact he has to make on our instructors and his peers to get this award,” he said. “It’s a very prestigious award, and one we do not take lightly.”
Indeed, the honor is named for one of Miami Fire-Rescue’s most cherished legends.
Padron was a city firefighter for over 30 years, having joined the department in 1940 and acting as a member of its first-ever rescue squad starting in 1941.
“He was known as the old man, the patriarch, hoarder of supplies – and one of the best ever,” Fernandez said, noting Padron was tapped to become the department’s chief but declined to seek the promotion, telling his colleagues he preferred to stay on the front lines responding to calls:
“This work means that much to me,” he’s quoted as saying.
Padron died of a heart attack in 1971, still an active member of the department.
With the weight of the honor in mind, Fernandez said he’s proud to recognize Fraga – and to see the academy’s top student heading to the Key. He described how intertwined Miami and Key Biscayne Fire-Rescue have become, and said he even has personal connections to the island.
Fernandez’s father worked at the old Key Biscayne Hotel for more than three decades, and as a teen Fernandez used to join his dad on the job during his summers off from school. From age 13-17, he even had a job at the hotel as a painter, saving enough money at the Key Biscayne Bank to get a loan for his first car at age 16.
The ties don’t end there.
Fernandez said when he was working as a firefighter in 1988 and had taken the promotional exam to become a lieutenant, he learned he simply needed an officer to leave in order for him to be elevated to the new position.
At the time, none other than Key Biscayne Village Manager John Gilbert, formerly the Village’s fire chief, was a City of Miami Fire Lieutenant, and decided he wanted to take a stab at police work. Gilbert’s departure for the North Miami Beach Police Department sealed Fernandez’s shot at being a lieutenant: “I thank you for that indecision,” he joked with Gilbert.
But on a serious note, Fernandez said the ties that bind his fire department and Key Biscayne’s are good for both agencies, and not just in terms of producing top recruits like Fraga.
He noted Fire Chief Eric Lang and Deputy Chiefs Michael Haring and Marcos Osorio are always a phone call away, and vice-versa.

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