Miami-Dade County

He just wanted to make his son proud. They wound up making each other proud.

Lt. Darryl Sevalia Sr., right, has been with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue for 27 years. His son, Darryl Sevalia Jr., is now in recruit training.
Lt. Darryl Sevalia Sr., right, has been with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue for 27 years. His son, Darryl Sevalia Jr., is now in recruit training. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The son pointing to his father’s influence in choosing to be a firefighter? Dog bites man.

But the father pointing to his son’s influence in the father choosing to be a firefighter?

Such is and was the case with the Darryl Sevalias, senior and junior.

Senior is 52-year-old Lt. Darryl Sevalia, a 24-year Miami-Dade Fire Rescue firefighter, 18 years of it spent in Miami Gardens’ Station 11. Junior is MDFR recruit trainee Darryl Sevalia, a 27-year-old with a 4-month-old daughter, Zuri.

“For him to follow me in this career path is like a gift from God,” Darryl Sr. said of his son, who started at the recruit academy on Darryl Sr.’s 52nd birthday, at the same age as he was when he started recruit training.

As a little boy, I had a toy car, that was red and green. I always used to pretend like it was a fire truck.

Darryl Sevalia Jr., who followed his father as a firefighter

In the early 1990s, Darryl Sr. worked as a mechanic on all manner of trucks, including garbage trucks. Though the job paid the bills, Darryl Sr. didn’t command the respect he wanted from his family.

But, when he held the fire department application handed him by a friend of the family, the shine in Darryl Jr.’s eye and “Now, you’re going to be a firefighter? That’s cool!” dictated a job change.

“I wanted a job my son could be proud of,” Darryl Sr. said.

Oh, Darryl Jr. was.

“As a little boy, I had a toy car, that was red and green,” Darryl Jr. said. “I always used to pretend like it was a fire truck. I remember one day I was pretending how to be a firefighter. He showed me how to search a room, how to come to the door, feel if it was hot. It always stuck with me.”

How many elementary school fathers can show up at school with firefighting gear and speak about a job with such excitement? Darryl Jr. loved having the cool dad that Darryl Sr. loved being.

“When he was about 10 and his younger brother was 6, I’d come home from a 24-hour shift and they used to race to jump into my arms,” said Darryl Sr., who now works at Station 59 off Northwest 36th Street and Red Road. “To me, that was the coolest.”

Darryl Jr.’s admiration didn’t immediately convert to following his father, though.

As Darryl Sr. proudly will tell you, his son scored a 27 on the ACT college-entrance exam at 12 years old — to put it into context, a score of 29 means you’re in the 91st percentile. The future adulthood discussed in the family included Dr. Darryl Sevalia Jr. doing his residency, not finishing firefighter training. Come time to go to college, Duke University showed interest.

Darryl Jr. wound up at Florida State (closer to home) and started pre-med work.

“I was going on that route and it didn’t feel…right,” he said. “I was doing it, but I wasn’t giving 100 percent.”

Quite the opposite from firefighting, where everyone approaches firefighting drills as “any day it could be the day.”

He’s been fully aware since high school that any day at work could be his father’s last day.

Darryl Sr. likes movement, excitement — go-karting, four-wheeling, whitewater rafting — and is proud of his son. But he doesn’t want his son working at his longtime work home, Station 11.

“If you can name it, I saw it,” he said. “Multiple fires in a single day. Multiple shootings in a single day. It takes a toll on you mentally. I’m not the same person I was. I have a happy-go-lucky son. I don’t want to change him.”

The two firehouses Darryl Jr. wants as his station? Station 11 (where Dad worked) or Station 2, Model Cities, 6400 NW 27th Ave. (he likes the safety progressive, heavy-training attitude of Capt. Bill Gustin).

“It wasn’t the fire I was scared about. It was more the gory stuff,” Darryl Jr. said. “But I’ve done rides and now that I’ve seen it … I understand it more. I can see and understand that, yes, I’m still a person, but I have a job to do so I’m able to focus on doing that job and not be so present in the scene to really take that in.”

The mutual pride between father and son is palpable.

“Everybody grows up idolizing firefighters,” Darryl Jr. said. “I had one of the great opportunities to have one as my father. Growing up, having him instill me the values of having a brotherhood, being a leader, being courageous was my foundation growing up.”

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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