By: Chelsea Mistretta

The highest honor in Florida fire service was awarded to a man who has broken barriers and set trends in the industry.

Brett Dunckel, fire prevention officer for the Broward Sheriff’s Office for the Port Everglades district, was named 2020 Fire Inspector of the Year by the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association. This distinction is deemed one of the highest honors awarded in the fire service.

Dunckel is instrumental in dealing with complex issues and has single-handedly produced an overall improvement to safety within the petroleum industry. He is also the first openly gay man in his fire department and founded a website called, “You Can Be Anything,” where everyone is encouraged to pursue any career they choose no matter their orientation.

When asked his emotions when he heard the news about the award, he said, “I was very surprised. I feel very honored to be selected out of all the fire inspectors in the state. This is one of my highest career achievements and demonstrates to me that my peers feel I am making a difference. At the end of the day, my goal is to make a difference in the level of safety for the citizens I serve.”

Dunckel is an alum of the University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning’s Fire and Emergency Services (FES) program, which is designed for emergency services professionals who desire an increase in managerial responsibility and leadership skills. The program is unique in that it offers a combination of Fire Science, Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Management courses designed to meet the student’s professional aspirations.

When asked what Dunckel found the most important lesson learned at UF, he said, “This question is not an easy one to answer, as there were so many valuable lessons provided through my education at UF and the FES program. However, if I had to choose one thing, I think it would be the ability to examine an issue such as staffing levels or public relations from all sides.”

Dunckel finds that the fire prevention career can sometimes have a single tracked mindset. He said, “When we force ourselves to look at an issue from multiple perspectives, we tend to make much better-informed decisions. Within fire prevention, it is important we enforce the fire code. However, there needs to be a balance between providing the highest level of safety for our citizens, but at a reasonable cost to the property owner. The ability to consider all perspectives in these situations greatly helps make finding that balance easier.”

Dunckel uses what he has learned at UF for his job at Port Everglades, which has an influx of cruise ships and petroleum storage; therefore, Dunckel’s responsibilities expand beyond the normal scope of fire inspector duties.

“I am often consulted during the design phase to assist in providing guidance on how a systems design can be optimized for fire department use during a response. This involves working with our petroleum, cargo and cruise industry stakeholders as a team,” Dunckel said.

Another role Dunckel has is the review and approval of all hot work-related projects within the Port, on land and vessels moored within the Port. He said, “Hot work activities are probably the most hazardous activities performed in petroleum storage facilities or onboard vessels. The hot work inspections have brought me to just about all areas of tanker ships, cruise ships, cargo ships, tugboats and even large private yachts.”

Like the College of Design, Construction and Planning, Dunckel continues to find new ways to shape the world we live in. Congratulations to him on this well-deserved award.

If you are interested in learning more about our college’s Fire and Emergency Services Program, please click here.

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