Bradenton firefighters mourn the death of 'a great leader'

BRADENTON — Firefighters, department administrators and city officials are “grieving” the loss of “a part of our family” in the aftermath of Fire Chief Mark Souders’ death this morning, a deputy chief said this afternoon.

“He was a great leader, he really was,” Deputy Chief David Ezell said during a press conference this afternoon at Central Fire Station 1. “He was inspirational. He brought a lot of things to the fire service that elevated the department to a new operational level.”

Souders, 55, died at 9:16 a.m. today at Blake Medical Center after suffering a cardiac arrest, Ezell said.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston also spoke and said he will miss his personal and professional relationship with Souders.

“We’ve known each other for a long time. I did some mentoring of Mark, I believe. ... He was a great person to work with. We’ll miss his leadership skills, both here and in the county.”

Ezell said West Manatee Fire Rescue and EMS received a 911 call at 8:25 a.m. today from Souders’ fiancee that Souders was unresponsive. Paramedics found Souders in full cardiac arrest and were unable to revive him.

He was pronounced dead at Blake Medical Center.Ezell said that because Souders died while serving as fire chief, he will be entitled to full honors.

Funeral arrangements are pending, he said.