Orlando Sentinel Columnist
May 18, 2005
Summer 2002. July 30 to be exact. A training exercise on the grounds of the old Florida Bible College leads to a flashover that kills two Osceola firefighters.The third anniversary is more than two months away. The accident is a reminder that even training to fight fires and save lives can have deadly consequences. There is nothing routine about being a firefighter. Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune reported that nine Chicago firefighters were injured after getting caught in a flashover while battling a house fire. It was a flashover, a blast of superheated air that engulfs everything in its path, that claimed Osceola fire Lt. John Mickel and rookie Dallas Begg in that 2002 accident. Even as another anniversary approaches, Mickel and Begg are not forgotten. State legislators passed the Lt. John Mickel & Dallas Begg Act during the recent session. "It is my hope that by learning from such tragic events, we may honor the memory of those who have perished . . . to ensure that no lives are again taken in such a way," said Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee, who sponsored the bill, which stiffens fire-training requirements.The bill is expected to become law, though it seems it would be appropriate for Gov. Jeb Bush to sign it into law on the anniversary of the accident.Mickel’s father, Keith, said he’s glad the law soon will be on the books. "I’m glad it’s taken care of," Mickel said. "The family wants to go on with life. We remember our son. We remember Dallas.
Fire is an unpredictable phenomena. We hope that much has been learned nationwide from their loss." Among the bill’s provisions is a requirement that all live fire training follow National Fire Protection Association standards. In addition, a 40-hour training program will be required for instructors of live-fire training. Each live-fire instructor must be state certified.It is one more fitting memorial to the two men.Osceola fire Chief Frank Montes de Oca said the bill will be helpful in departments that need to be reminded of the "inherently dangerous jobs that we do."Montes de Oca, who was not with the department at the time of the accident, said Osceola has developed new procedures and philosophies since 2002."Our process is night-and-day different," he said.The group in charge of such exercises has expanded from two lieutenants to a division chief, a captain and four lieutenants. The group is now known as the "training and safety" division.
Meanwhile, a golf tournament in the memory of the fallen firefighters will be at Remington Golf Club on July 24. Money from the fund-raiser will send candidates to the fire academy. The pain is still present when Keith Mickel speaks."I’ve learned to go on," he said. "There are days not as good as others. Other days are fine. Then one day comes along and it’s a cry day. A particular thing triggers an emotion and you recall you won’t have it again. It makes me melancholy." The pain never goes away, but as much as it may hurt, it also helps us remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice one summer day that was anything but routine.