Vaccinated firefighters better prepared to serve, Orange County mayor says

Jerry Demings addresses firing of battalion chief Stephen Davis

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings on Thursday addressed the recent termination of a county battalion chief.

Stephen Davis, former Orange County Fire Rescue battalion chief, was fired Tuesday after failing to issue reprimands to employees who did not complete mandatory vaccination verification, county officials said.

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“When it comes to our firefighters, I want you to know, I want the public to know, that we value, we respect and we love our firefighters,” Demings said. “We support the men and women who volunteer to come as the first response.”

Demings said that the county has frequently acknowledged the risk first responders—“our heroes,” as he called them—assume and experience when protecting and serving their community.

“That is why we compensate them with special risks, pay and provide them with all the necessary training, equipment and supervision to keep them safe,” Demings said. “I find nothing inconsistent in this directory... that we have given them to ensure the quality of fire and EMS services we provide before, during and after the pandemic. Clearly, vaccinated firefighters are better prepared to serve than those who are not.”

The vaccine mandate, and later Davis’s termination, sparked controversy within the firefighting community.

The county’s legal advisors also informed Demings that he is well within the law when it comes to the vaccine requirements issued to Orange County firefighters and the consequences for those who don’t follow these rules.

To date, 95% of county employees have complied with the mandate, a number that includes those who have been vaccinated or have been granted a medical or religious accommodation, according to Demings, who added that 88% of county firefighters are in compliance.

“One individual, a battalion chief, chose to be insubordinate and was fired by the fire chief. I support the action that has been taken in this regard. There is an established process for disciplinary appeals,” Demings continued. “We will aggressively defend our right to protect our citizens and our employees. Let the courts decide what was lawful.”

Demings also commented on Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recent announcement calling for a special session in the Florida legislature to combat state vaccine mandates.

“As we move forward, whatever the governor does, the governor does. Whatever the legislature does, they do,” Demings said. The fact that they’re trying to do a special session (says) to me there’s something wrong with the current law, and it does not result in the things that they want to accomplish. We’ll see.”

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About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.