The Coral Springs-Parkland fire chief opens up about being honored and his appreciation for his department
■ I wouldn’t say [working as a firefighter is] scary. It’s OK to be concerned, and it’s OK to be cautious, because that will only bring alertness.
■ I remember my first real dive call. It was an airplane that had crashed into a lake. … I was the first diver on scene. I had trained for this, but I was probably a little more apprehensive than I had ever been. … I opened the door, got [the passenger] out. … After, I sat there for a second and reflected on what happened. After those situations, you realize you did exactly what you were supposed to do based on your training.
■ I can’t say there’s ever been a time I’ve gone into a fire that I wasn’t comfortable—I guess that is the word. You’re with your crew. You rely on each other. You’ve got their back. You know they’ve got your back. You’re not out of place. That’s what you’re there to do.
■ [My department sees] life-threatening calls, where they bring people back from the dead. It makes me really proud of them, being the fire chief. Every accomplishment they have, I get to share in it. If I know my guys had to watch a young kid [die] in front of them, I know how that affects them, so I share in that grief, as well.
■ Firefighters see stuff that they can’t unsee. They’ll see more stuff in a shift than most people will see in a lifetime. One of my primary focuses has been, how can we better take care of our emergency responders—not only while they work with us, but after the fact, so they can live as normal of a life as possible?
■ I probably take it too seriously sometimes, if there’s such a thing. I take things a little personally sometimes when they don’t go exactly how I want them to go. But it’s only because I care. I expect things to be perfect because our job is to provide for those in need. When they need you, there’s no room for error. You’ve got to do things the best you can.
■ [The department’s annual awards dinner] is packed with story after story of our firefighters bringing people back to life. Bringing people into this world. Putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others. To single one [moment out], I don’t know that I could.
The Babinec File
■ Started as a volunteer firefighter with the Coral Springs Fire Department in 1993; became chief in February 2014.
■ Frank was named the 2017 Florida Fire Chief of the Year.
■ His department received a Class 1 rating by the Information Services Organization.
■ The department also was named the 2017 EMS Provider of the Year in the state.