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Alton welcomes new fire chief to growing department

20130109 Alton Fire Chief Javier-Garcia AF 1786ALTON—The City of Alton has a new fire chief – a man with considerable experience and an impressive list of fire fighting credentials.

Originally from Rio Grande City, Alton Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Javier Garcia has spent 16 years of his 30-year fire career in McAllen. There Garcia worked his way from fire fighter to lieutenant.Since then he has also served as Rio Grande City’s fire chief and as deputy fire marshal for Hidalgo County.

Hard work is something he believes to be important.

During his time spent working for multiple cities and Hidalgo County, Garcia earned advanced certifications through the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, including Fire Inspector, Fire Investigator, Arson Investigator, Aircraft Fire Rescue, Instructor 3 (highest level) and Head of Suppression.

“In 1996, I was the first paid fire chief in Rio Grande City and I was the first Hispanic fire chief for Hollywood Park,” Garcia said. “Ever since I was young I wanted to be a fire fighter, I like to give…that’s what fire fighters do. We give a lot of our time to help people.”

Garcia has a strong passion for fire education that shows through his rankings and time spent at each city. With his move to Alton, he explained he knew the area very well, as he spent eight years covering cities around Alton while working as the deputy fire marshal for the Hidalgo County Fire Marshal’s department.

Though Garcia has only been with Alton for two months, he has already achieved goals and plans for a whole new future for the rapidly growing department. One of the first changes made in Alton was to include the position of fire marshal; Garcia handles all responsibilities with the title.

The Alton City Commission also approved, on Jan. 8, just over $78,000 to be added to the budget for current fire fighters. The addition of these funds is allocated for the salaries of the new total of 14 full time members in the department.

“Training is my priority right now. With proper training we are going to provide the citizens with better fire protection,” Garcia said. “In order to provide the citizens with better fire fighters we went through a testing system.”

The testing system was used on eight personnel members; the top ranking employees were made lieutenants and engineers (fire truck drivers). Garcia added, with the help of inspectors certified by the state, he plans to use his staff to make assessments of buildings and new businesses coming to Alton for reports that are given to the Insurance Services Office (ISO).

He said a larger fire department that has experience, training, and that meets proper guidelines, may result in lower insurance rates for citizens. Garcia also has plans of instilling proper fire prevention knowledge to students and adults; he also welcomes any concerns or questions from community members.

Garcia seems to always be on the move, and says he rarely gets free time. The passion for his job is what keeps him thriving and motivated.

The fire chief remembers well the advice from his grandfather, a saying in Spanish that compares life to tying shoelaces. His grandfather said a lot like tying shoelaces, life seems difficult, but after days of practice, a day will come where tying laces will come naturally.

“Back then I wondered why he told me that, but it’s a principle I live by now,” Garcia said. “I believe in working with people. When you have a good crew and you train them correctly…you are going to get a lot of production.”

Garcia’s first day was Nov.12, 2012 and he said his experience so far has been great. He thanks the City of Alton for giving him the opportunity. He added, morale at the fire department is positive and they will work hard as a team to provide for the citizens of Alton.

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