POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Brian Herr’s mother and young sons proudly placed a pin on his lapel.
It was mid-April 2023 and, at 41 years old, Herr was beginning his career at Polk County Fire Rescue.
He spoke as the class representative at the new hire ceremony.
“Leaders rise in our organization and that’s what we encourage everybody to really step up and be a part of our process,” said Dr. Hezedean Smith, Polk County Fire Rescue Chief. “That’s what he did.”
Officials said Herr was off duty when he crashed on I-4 just before 5:30 a.m. Saturday. He was traveling westbound between U.S. Highway 27 and Old Grade Road in Polk City.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Herr and an unknown driver swerved to avoid hitting each other as they both attempted to move into the center lane.
Herr’s car then began to hydroplane and crashed into a group of trees in the median.
The car caught fire so Polk County Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched.
After they extinguished the flames, they found Herr in the driver’s seat and agency-issued bunker gear in the car with him.
“We train for this every day,” Smith said. “We have the highest trained individuals, members in our organization that are committed to saving lives and property and definitely this was a very challenging incident for our team.”
“We’re deeply saddened at this untimely and sudden death of our firefighter,” Deputy County Manager Joe Halman said.
Herr worked mainly out of station seven in Polk City.
Video below: Procession held for Polk County firefighter killed in crash
He is remembered as a go-getter, who would often bring his sons out to eat with his fellow crew members.
“He was an outstanding member of our team and even though he was with us a short time, he demonstrated a positive attitude and demonstrated teamwork that was exceptional,” Smith said.
A funeral is being planned for next week.