Iran David "I.D." Rivers was a bear of a man with a buzz cut, a thick reddish mustache and a cheery disposition who hugged so fiercely he lifted people up, their legs swinging. He seemed to make friends everywhere. Things like grocery shopping took him quite a while.
It has been a year since he died, but the loss still feels fresh and raw at the fire station where he spent much of his life, tough men and women blinking back tears, fighting to control their voices. Rivers, a Hillsborough County firefighter and emergency medical technician for 24 years, died from a heart attack while on duty on Sept. 22, 2013. He was 48.
Tuesday, the station at 10100 Henderson Road that serves Citrus Park, Odessa and Town 'N Country was dedicated to him.
"He was not only a great firefighter," said Hillsborough Fire Rescue Capt. Jodi Lopez, "but an outstanding human being."
Fire Rescue workers dive into the worst of life: horrific fires, crashes, illness, injury. Rivers brought the best of humanity into the darkest situations. He was respectful and compassionate. Rivers brought elderly patients' newspapers inside their homes for them. He petted all dogs.
"He just liked taking care of people," said Battalion Chief Ernie Wargo.
At the station, Rivers was the cook. Those who ate his food say he had no specialty because everything he made was great. Beautiful lasagnas. Fish. Scalloped potatoes. Cakes. Pies. Sometimes he decided to do a full Thanksgiving dinner, regardless of the date. Wargo still has a bottle of Rivers' homemade habanero hot sauce. He rations it, a few drops at a time, to make it last. He said there were no signs leading up to Rivers' death. The crew handled a medical call, came back to the station and went to bed. Rivers was always the first one up, making coffee for everyone. But he wasn't in the kitchen. He had died in his sleep.
"It's a huge loss," Wargo said.
Rivers lived with his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and cared for her. He never married but had a 20-year relationship with a colleague, Sharri Dufresne, a Hillsborough County fire inspector. She said he was a gentle giant who mowed lawns for those who couldn't. He brought food to the sick. He helped friends move. When he wasn't doing this, he was fishing. He loved being on the water and went out as often as he could, especially snook fishing. Dufresne scattered his ashes at his favorite fishing spot.
She also works at the station that now bears his name — I.D. Rivers Station 6. He worked in this building for 20 years. Firefighters work 24 hours on, 48 hours off — a third of their lives are spent together, creating an intense familial bond. His photos are throughout the station. Instead of reminding her of her loss, the memories comfort her. Rivers lives on there, in that place and with his work family.
"He is still here with us," she said.