Miami-Dade Fire Rescue member’s son was killed during training exercise

A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue worker’s son died Saturday after a fire that ignited during a Friday training exercise at a vacant Virginia Gardens building.

Fabian Camero, son of Francisco Camero, was 28 years old. Francisco, 48, has been a firefighter for 20 years. A GoFundMe page has been set up for Fabian’s funeral expenses.

“Fabian, was a brave and dedicated young man, passionate about following in his father’s footsteps to serve and protect our community,” said the GoFundMe page, signed by The Fighting 7 Family and created by Juan Miguel, a member of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

Referring to Fabian’s father, Francisco, the veteran firefighter, Miguel wrote: “Cisco has always been a pillar of strength and resilience, tirelessly putting his life on the line to help others. Now, in his time of unimaginable pain, he needs our support more than ever. The emotional toll of losing a son is beyond words... “

Miguel, when reached by the Herald Monday, said he, nor Camero’s family, want to discuss the incident with the media.

Miami-Dade police announced Camero’s death, but not his name, Saturday night. What happened Friday around 10:40 a.m. at 6596 NW 36th St. remains under investigation by Miami-Dade police homicide detectives, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue arson detectives and the Florida State Fire Marshal’s office.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she was “deeply saddened” after learning about the tragic incident. She added the county is seeking answers to drill down what happened and how to prevent it moving forward.

“I have asked our Chief of Public Safety to lead a full investigation into the events that took place yesterday along with a comprehensive review of protocols and practices — to ensure we do everything possible to prevent an incident like this in the future, to keep our firefighters and first responders safe,” she said in the statement.

James Reyes, the Levine Cava deputy who oversees Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said in a statement the county would review existing rules and practices for training after this exercise went wrong.

“We will work with the Fire Chief to also complete a comprehensive audit of protocols and practices to ensure no incident like this happens in the future,” said Reyes, a Democratic candidate for sheriff.

Among leaders speaking out on the matter, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis reiterated via X that the man’s death is a terrible situation.

“I’ve been in touch with local officials and fire investigators from my office are en route to the scene to assist the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue with the fire investigation. Please join me in praying for those injured in this unfortunate incident,” Patronis added.

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raied ‘Ray’ Jadallah sent a memo to staff Saturday that included, “I am fully committed to a transparent investigative process that will yield facts and answers as to why this incident took place.”

The Herald’s efforts to reach Arajuo were unsuccessful.

Building limited to search-and-rescue

Spencer Deno, the mayor of Virginia Gardens, said he was briefed over the weekend by the county mayor’s office. That building, he said, has been used for more than a month now by the county for fire department drills. Those, though, never involved an actual fire, he said. Instead, they were limited to search-and-rescue simulations, including the use of canine search teams.

“The building owner didn’t give permission for a controlled burn,” Deno said. He described the deadly fire as accidental, and not part of the training exercise that day. He also said firefighters from Saudi Arabia were part of the exercise.

The four-story Virginia Gardens commercial building, county records say, is one of three adjacent buildings passed to 36th St. Storage LLC for “minimum consideration” in 2022 by A3M Investment. State records say both companies are managed by Alejandro Araujo out of a North Miami Beach office.

In an email to the Miami Herald, Araujo said he was out of town Friday morning, learned of the tragedy from the Virginia Gardens mayor’s office and went to the building as soon as he returned later Friday. Araujo had no comment on either the fire, the investigation or if Miami-Dade Fire Rescue had permission for training exercises involving any kind of fire.

The three-alarm fire sent several fire rescue workers to a hospital and shut down Northwest 36th Street for hours.

Previous death of Miami-Dade firefighter in training

This is not the first time a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue recruit has died during a training session.

In 2003, Wayne Mitchell, 37, died during in an exercise at the Resolve Fire & Hazard Response center in Port Everglades due to extreme heat. He had a heart murmur and was more susceptible to developing an abnormal heartbeat, according to the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office, the Herald reported at the time.

His family’s lawyer argued the dangerous training environment and the instructors’ “reckless indifference” to safety standards were significant factors in his death.

“Wayne’s always been healthy. He was a lifeguard for 10 years and was consistently concerned about his physical fitness,” Nancy Mitchell, his widow, told the Herald at the time.

In 2005, Nancy Mitchell sued the private training facility at Port Everglades and settled for $2 million with Miami-Dade County, according to a story in the Herald archives.

Miami Herald staff writers Grethel Aguila and David Goodhue contributed to this report.