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Heroes at work, rock stars on the weekend: Meet Miami-Dade's Fire Brigade

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Verónica Zaragovia
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WLRN
Lt. Ryan Townsend (left), Capt. Eddy Alarcon (center), and Lt. Troy Maness work with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and play in the band Fire Brigade. They're pictured practicing on Aug. 10, 2022 in Kendall.

To play in the band Fire Brigade, you don’t need a background in rock music. The one requirement is to work for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

Their experiences include working through the rubble in Surfside after the Champlain Towers South collapsed last year. All six of them are bonded by the stress of their job and their love for music.

The band's repertoire includes covers of songs from the likes of The Killers, The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Weezer, Pearl Jam, Guns N' Roses and Journey. You can catch them at the Hard Rock Guitar Hotel's Rooftop Live in Hollywood on Sept. 24.

WLRN’s Veronica Zaragovia went to their practice at Lt. Ryan Townsend's garage in Kendall, where they told her their story.

EDDY ALARCON: I'm Eddy Alarcon. I am the founding member of the band. I've been with the department for 26 years, and the band started about 18 years ago. I met Ryan [Townsend] at [Miami-Dade Fire Rescue] Station 16 at Homestead. He was a guitar player and I think we were just messing around. I said, ‘Man, we should start a band.’

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Verónica Zaragovia
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WLRN
Capt. Eddy Alarcon, far right, is the founder of the Fire Brigade band. Pictured practicing with Lt. Ryan Townsend and Battalion Chief Miguel Peralta on Aug. 10, 2022 in Kendall.

RYAN TOWNSEND: My name is Ryan Townsend. I've been with the department for 20 years. I played guitar and when Eddy saw me, he says, ‘Oh, let's jam.’ We jammed.

EDDY ALARCON: And that's how it started. We started playing our instruments at the station a little bit, in between calls. One of our district chiefs, Jason Richard, he heard us play. He was at the station and he said, 'Man, I'll give you your first gig. I'm going to book you for my dad's retirement party.’ And that was our very first gig. Back then, we weren't known as Fire Brigade, though. The original name was Phat Eddy and the B Shift Destroyers. And guess who Phat Eddy is? This guy right here. So this is basically the band that has been together the longest and the best version of the band as far as I'm concerned, and we're all not just band mates. We're mates at work, but we're the best of friends as well.

RYAN TOWNSEND: It's always been a requirement to be part of the fire department. That's just one of our things. Not only can we be heroes in real life, but we can also, you know, be rock stars on the weekends. So it's a lot of fun. I don't think any of us intend on stopping anytime soon. I think we're just going to go as far as we can go, and again, this is not something that we do for anything other than the love for it, you know? And we've had amazing experiences. Some of these guys actually got to play with Pitbull [on stage at the Latin Grammys in 2020].

RYAN TOWNSEND: I thought it was awesome that Pitbull took the time to do that and include normal people like us. That was awesome.

EDDY ALARCON: It's just an amazing satisfaction to be able to bring joy. You make everybody happy and dancing and all that stuff. It's a great feeling.

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Verónica Zaragovia
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WLRN
Battalion Chief Miguel Peralta is Fire Brigade's drummer.

MIGUEL PERALTA: My name is Miguel Peralta and [I'm the] newly promoted battalion chief. Even though Eddy may be the founder of the band, I'm the chief of the band. So they all have to do as I say. Just living the dream, you know? Both of my childhood dreams, really – being a firefighter and being a drummer in a band. It doesn't get any better. Been on a little over 17 years. I got hired in 2005 along with Adrian.

ADRIAN BALLARD: My name is Adrian Ballard, I’m the lead singer of Fire Brigade. I actually am a driving engineer for Ladder 66 on B Shift. But right now, I’m on special assignment, I'm actually in training. I'm an instructor for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue right now. I was working overtime one time, met [Eddy] Alarcon. I told him, ‘Hey, I sing.’ He said, ‘Sing me something.’ I sang it. He said, ‘Come Monday, record some stuff.’ The guys heard it, said ‘Hey, we’ll take him as lead singer.’ That's how I came into it. We're like brothers, you know? We're going to fight. We're going to have our disputes and then we're going to say what we're going to eat later or something like that. We always have a good time, but to me, over the lifetime just seeing the growth of us as musicians, how we've gotten better.

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Verónica Zaragovia
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WLRN
Adrian Ballard, lead singer of Fire Brigade, is a driving engineer for Ladder 66 on B Shift with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

ROBERT KELLER: My name is Robert Keller. I've been on the department for almost six years now. I'm a lieutenant. I just got promoted. I got a degree in classical piano before I was on the fire department. Any way you can express yourself with music, I think is beneficial, stress-wise. Definitely with more rock-type music, you can kind of get a little more out of it.

MIGUEL PERALTA: Rob – I was his instructor during the recruit academy, so I actually recruited him to be in the band because we were looking for a keyboardist and as soon as I knew that he was a classically trained pianist, I was like, ‘Well, do you mind dumbing it down and playing a little bit of rock?’

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Verónica Zaragovia
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WLRN
Lt. Robert Keller plays the keyboard in the band Fire Brigade.

TROY MANESS: My name is Troy Maness. I'm a lieutenant on Miami-Dade Fire Rescue — 20 years I've been there. I've been with the band for more than 15 years. It's probably been 16 ish years. I worked with Adrian, the singer, one day randomly, and I had always played guitar and was in other bands and he said, ‘Hey, I need another guitarist.’ So I came and tried out and then they let me join. It's been a long, great ride. All of us have changed as people and families. I used to be the single one with nothing. I was never busy. I could always play. And now I have the two kids and the wife, and life’s busier. But it's been a great thing, an accomplishment that I've done over my life. Playing music – for people – is an awesome experience. I'm very happy that I met these guys and that we do what we do.

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Verónica Zaragovia
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A Fire Brigade band set list

RYAN TOWNSEND: Since we've started, we probably played 150 cover tunes.

EDDY ALARCON: If not for our family, this wouldn't even be possible because if we didn't have their support, forget about it. People say, 'Are you guys really firefighters?' Because I guess we don't stink as a band. We're not bad, right? So they're like, ‘You guys have a real job on the side? You don't do this for a living?’ That's always nice to hear. It's always gratifying to know that they think we're good enough to be considered a professional band.

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Verónica Zaragovia
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The Fire Brigade band at practice on Aug. 10, 2022 in Kendall.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care for the station. Verónica has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in journalism. For many years, Veronica lived out of a suitcase (or two) in New York City, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, D.C., San Antonio and Austin, where she worked as the statehouse and health care reporter with NPR member station KUT.