FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Fire departments know tragedy. Every day they answer gut-wrenching calls. But losing one of their own?

“We lost a family member yesterday. He was a brother to all of us. It’s a very difficult time, not just for the John’s family but for those of us who worked with him,” said Deputy Fort Lauderdale Fire Chief Timothy Heiser.

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For nearly 30 years Lt. Kevin Johns was known in the community as a life saver. He received a silver medal in 2004 for saving nine other firefighters trapped on a boat.

Lt. Kevin Johns is credited for saving 9 or 10 fire fighters from the fire on this boat 10 years ago.  He received a silver medal in 2004 for saving nine other firefighters trapped on a boat. (Courtesy: Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue)

Lt. Kevin Johns is credited for saving nine fire fighters trapped on this boat while battling the blaze. (Courtesy: Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue)

“Kevin, using his experience and the crew he actually trained,” explained Heiser, “was able to get onto the vessel and assist those 9 fire fighters escaping with out anything bad happening.”

But to many, Johns was more than that. Johns was a reliable colleague, a friend, a father.

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On Tuesday Johns was killed while changing a tire on the side of I-95.

On Wednesday the mood around his old fire house, Station 13, was distinctly somber. Johns gear still hangs on the hooks at the station, a solemn reminder of his loss.

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Johns’ daughter shared stories about her father on social media. She was touched by her father’s bravery and willingness to help others.

“When you were with Kevin, you knew you were safe. You knew you were going have an aggressive fire attack, aggressive patient care and you were going to be okay,” Heiser said on behalf of the department.

The driver who hit him, Lorenza Simmons, said she had swerved to avoid hitting a car during a traffic crash.

“I spoke to him. He was trying to make sounds to talk to me. I called 911. I told them what happened and tried to get somebody here as soon as possible,” said Simmons.

His death impacts his family, his comrades and the Fort Lauderdale community he served.

Heiser explained, “Many people owe their lives to him, over 28 years, figuring the amount of calls he’s run, it’s probably in the 10s of thousands.”

The Fort Lauderdale fire chief is working with the Johns family to plan funeral arrangements.

The Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating the accident, and have not filed charges against the driver.


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Ted Scouten