GREGORY, Texas — Right now, the Gregory Volunteer Fire Department only encounters about four to five calls a month. But when trouble does strike, Jesus Garza Jr. wants to be there.
“It does take a toll,” chief Garza said. “But over the years you get — not to say used to it but — you kind of put it in the back of your mind that it could be worse.”
Garza has been with the department for seven years in total — for two years now, he’s been chief. He said he was inspired to join the department years ago when he heard a former fire chief speak out during a city council meeting and how he said the department needed more help.
Today, Garza is echoing that message.
“Within this department, we have 16 members, but only three of us live in the city,” he said. “A majority of the members either live in Portland, Ingleside or Aransas (Pass), so that’s still a problem in this small community if we don’t have local members.”
Still, he does appreciate the efforts of those who are from out of town. Twenty-year-old Kenneth Walker Peden from Portland, for example, started out wanting to join for experience, but ended up finding more than on-the-job training.
“Coming into it, I didn’t really realize how much work it takes and how much dedication, patience, commitment,” Peden said. “It wasn’t really about (the community) in the beginning for me — it was more about experience, but now after being in the department, I’ve just grown to really love the community, really love my department, and I’m just trying to move forward as best I can.”
Peden’s father and grandfather were both firefighters. He’s hoping to continue the family tradition as a career firefighter and is currently enrolled at Del Mar College.
Even though the work doesn’t come with pay, Garza said it’s something he enjoys.
“I don’t wanna take all the credit,” he said. “I’m just serving my community, doing what I’d like to do — serving, helping other people and fighting fires, that’s mostly fun.”
For those interested in volunteering for the department, Garza said members meet every Thursday at 7 p.m. at Gregory City Hall at 206 W 4th St. More information can be found on their website.