Triad Magazine

A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.

Selfless Devotion

By Jorge Gomez

 

The storm warnings have been issued,

but you have decided to stay. The

hurricane makes landfall and ravishes

your home, leaving it in ruins with your

family trapped inside. Roads damaged

by flood waters are impassable and your

family’s situation becomes increasingly

grim. Until, in the distance, the beacon of

a rescue vehicle begins to flash. Despair

turns to hope as your family is freed from

the anguish of your once stable home.

For some, each year’s hurricane

season could potentially lead to this lifethreatening

scenario. As a member of the

Urban Search and Rescue team, Florida

Task Force 3, former HCC student Lt.

Steven Fortier has built a career around

serving countless strangers in their time

of greatest need.

Fortier’s career in rescue began

nearly 28 years ago as a lifeguard for the

city of Tampa. The next logical step led

Fortier to HCC where he completed the

Minimum Fire Standards program to

become a Tampa firefighter. As Fortier

moved up through the ranks within the

department, he joined the task force

seven years into his career. The added

responsibility came naturally to Fortier,

who always looked for an opportunity to

give back to his community.

“We do a lot of stuff that people

don’t want to do,” Fortier said. “Stuff that

makes you feel good.”

Task Force 3’s last deployment

came in the aftermath of Hurricane

Katrina. Fortier’s team contributed to

one live rescue during its assignment,

but dealt with the difficult task of

recovery rather than rescue. Although

the team strives to be on the scene of

a live rescue, witnessing devastation

remains a difficult byproduct of the

mission. Providing closure for those

families separated by tragedy is a duty

that Fortier still deems necessary during

the recovery process.

In 2000, Fortier’s selflessness was

acknowledged by his peers when he was

named Firefighter of the Year. The award

recognized an exemplary career of civil

service highlighted by an extreme act of

altruism. Fortier donated bone marrow

to a stranger in Colorado stricken with

cancer, who now lives cancer-free.

Mark Fernandez, a 15-year

veteran of the Tampa Fire Department,

echoes many of the praises regarding

his comrade. Fernandez recognizes an

unwavering confidence as an attribute

that defines Fortier’s persona both on

and off the clock.

“When Steve shows up on scene,

you think, ‘Thank God someone’s here,’”

Fernandez said, describing the unrivaled

knowledge and composure Fortier

brings to every call.

Fortier’s passion for giving,

coupled with strong focus on continued

education, has naturally evolved into

a role of educator. As an emergency

medical technician instructor at Tampa’s

Learey Technical Center, he finds

immense satisfaction contributing to

the education of future emergency

responders. With thoughts of retirement

on the horizon, Fortier contemplates

the possibilities of continuing on as an

educator in the days after his bunker

gear is hung up for good.

“It’s a good feeling when I see them

on the street and I go ‘Yeah, I trained

that person,’” Fortier said. “I am helping

them get into a position where they can

also make a difference in somebody’s

life.”

 

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