The Flagler-Palm Coast Kiwanis Club last week honored three local firefighters as its 2019 Firefighters of the Year–one from each fire department in the county.
Those honored were the Palm Coast Fire Department’s Patrick Juliano, Flagler County Fire Rescue’s Armando Castaneda, and the Flagler Beach Fire Department’s Jamal Prince. Castaneda the same week was also honored by the Flagler Chapter Sons of the American Revolution, earning a Fire Safety Commendation Medal for “outstanding contributions” in the fire services.
Castaneda is an eager participant and leader of various training programs in and out of the county. He started at Flagler County Fire Rescue nine years ago and very quickly promoted to lieutenant, thanks in part to his managerial background: he’d been in the restaurant business previously. “He felt he was inexperienced but he was really good at what he does, he never stopped learning since day one,” Deputy Fire Chief Joe King said.
Castaneda goes to many training conferences and seminars and brings it all back to his department, developing, among other initiatives, the department’s active-shooter training program and response and working with the Flagler Beach Fire Department’s Stephen Cox to secure bullet-proof vests for firefighter-paramedics across the county. He also eagerly participates in talks to schools in and out of the county. “If you ask this guy to talk about the fire service, he’s there,” King said.
Patrick Juliano is usually behind the camera, writing press releases or coordinating ceremonies to make other people look good or mark solemn occasions. In this case, the Kiwanis decided to put the attention on him.
“Patrick is a very unique individual, he’s always putting everybody out front, and he’s the person that makes the information flow well,” Palm Coast Fire Chief Jerry Forte said. “And what I like about Patrick, he’s got a humble way about getting me to do stuff. But at the end, he makes us all look better.”
Juliano started in Palm Coast as a volunteer in 2006, became a professional firefighter in 2008, and left for two years to serve in Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s administration. He returned in 2017 and was promoted to driver engineer in 2018.
“There’s an old saying: you can never go home again,” Forte said. “But Patrick did, he left Palm Coast to go away and try to do something at the state level. When he wanted to come back, it was the kid that wanted to ask permission but was afraid to. And I think by him coming back he learned a tremendous amount about going away and coming home. So for Patrick to get his acknowledgement–this is actually his first acknowledgement of a position like that–it’s rewarding that he gets it, because he’s always putting other people first. So for him to be Firefighter of the Year for the Kiwanis, that’s a wonderful acknowledgement of a good person.”
Juliano is also president of the department’s union–an irony, considering his otherwise solidly conservative credentials. He calls it “an awesome opportunity to serve my brother firefighters,” and cites his predecessor’s success in joining others across the state to win cancer benefits for firefighters and getting a bill passed that finally provides health coverage for firefighters’ PTSD.
He’s also commander of the Fire Department Honor Guard and coordinator of the city’s ceremonies at Heroes Park.
“For Kiwanis to recognize our local first responders is truly humbling, and to know the community is watching and appreciates our service,” Juliano said. “We don’t do it for the recognition but it’s great, it’s truly humbling, kind of leaves you at a loss of words for people’s kindness and their generosity.”
Jamal Prince has been at the Flagler Beach Fire Department just over a year. The Daytona Beach native is on his first job. “I’m excited to have been recognized for this year’s firefighter of the year award,” he said. “Each day I’ll continue to better myself as a firefighter for the department and the community I serve.”
Cox, the captain in the department, described Prince as “a hard worker, he’s very dedicated, he’s a gentle giant–if you’ve seen him, he’s a big guy, he always has a smile on his face.” And he noted: “He can lift up a semi truck, that guy.”
The Flagler-Palm Coast Kiwanis Club has been a local chapter of Kiwanis International for the past 40 years. This annual award is given to local firefighters during National Fire Prevention Week to recognize them for their service, dedication and commitment to their communities. The award was presented by Kiwanis Chapter President Maria Barbosa, a Flagler County School Board member (she did not return a call), and Awards Chairman Frank Consentino.