Orange County fire battalion chief fired for not reprimanding unvaccinated firefighters

According to Orange County fire officials, Stephen Davis was fired for "failure to follow a direct order."

Orange County Fire Rescue
Orange County Fire Rescue
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As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, Stephen Davis was no longer an employee at Orange County Fire Rescue, according to a statement from Orange County

Davis, an Orange County Fire Rescue battalion chief, was fired Tuesday after he refused to reprimand unvaccinated firefighters. Davis is a veteran of the U.S. Army and had 14 years of service and experience at the Orange County Fire Rescue Department.

The firing comes less than a month after a group of 43 employees with the Orange County Fire Rescue filed a lawsuit against the Florida county regarding its mandate requiring either proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or regular negative tests, which we told you about here

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said those who don't show proof of vaccination will receive a letter of reprimand but face no risk of being fired for violating the order. 

According to firefighter's union member Jason Wheat, who worked with Davis for 14 years and has been with Orange County Fire Rescue for almost 17 years, Davis was given a list of people to reprimand by the county. Wheat said Davis knew the reprimanding would be unlawful, because there were several people on the list who had been vaccinated or had verified exemptions. 

According to Wheat, the county asked Davis to reprimand them anyway and officials would rectify the files later. Davis reportedly still refused to do so and was terminated.

"We were very surprised and then also heartbroken and upset about Davis getting terminated because he did something that every battalion chief or leader should have done when he realized what was going on was just not right and even unlawful," Wheat said. 

According to Orange County fire officials, Davis was fired for "failure to follow a direct order."

A release confirmed the termination, stating, "the insubordination was the result of his refusal to issue disciplinary action on Oct. 5, 2021." 

The Observer reached out to Orange County officials for further comment on Davis's firing and allegations on Wednesday, Oct. 20. 

A letter provided to the media by Wheat shows Davis reached out to his battalion shortly before he was fired. 

In it he writes, "I made the stand to not issue any reprimands because they violated the law."

He went on to say he would fight to get his job back.

"I know for sure all of us at the fire department are going to stand with him," Wheat said. "He is one of the best battalion chiefs that we have and its not only a tremendous loss to this department but also to the community and all of the people that Davis has helped."

Wheat shared a Give Send Go link to his Facebook page for those that would like to help. 

The funds from the campaign will go directly to Davis and his family. 

Wheat also gave an update on the lawsuit. 

He said the number of employees on the lawsuit will increase from 43 to 86 and that the lawsuit is going forward with Judge Jeff Ashton, who is known for prosecuting Casey Anthony, who will be overhearing the case. The employees are currently waiting on Orange County to issue a court date. 



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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