He may not have superhuman strength and speed like Marvel’s Captain America, but San Antonio Fire Department Captain Pedro M. Garza Jr. is a different kind of superhero.
As a Captain for the SAFD for the last 11 years, and currently the Captain at Fire Station No. 22 on the city’s South Side, Garza is dedicated to protecting the San Antonio community in any way he can.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” said Garza, 55. “I’m just doing my job. I love my job and got into it to fight fires and save lives.”
As a member of the SAFD for over 30 years, Garza has a career’s worth of stories to tell. He’s seen just about every fire and medical scenario a firefighter could see. From being on the scene of the 4-alarm fire in the mid-90s at the local San Antonio Shoes Company to using the “Jaws of Life” to pull people out of wrecked vehicles, Garza said every day brings different challenges.
He remembers when his crew was sent to the East Side in October 1998 when a deadly flood hit San Antonio.
“We went out and rescued about 10 people,” Garza said. “The water was all the way up to our necks. That was one of the scarier times. But you have to rely on your training and your guys.”
Garza also remembers once getting his picture in the newspaper. He had just pulled a big Rottweiler out of a house fire.
“The headline said, ‘Dog’s Best Friend,’” Garza said laughing.
Over the course of his 30-year career, Garza said a lot has changed at the SAFD for the better. Not only have tools like firefighters’ breathing apparatuses and fire trucks become more enhanced, different tactics and strategies have evolved. And because the city’s focus on fire prevention has increased, there are fewer fires than when he first joined up in 1983. Now, a lot of a firefighters’ work consists of medical emergencies. There are also no more phone calls to the fire station asking Garza and his team to help them with animal issues.
“Back in the day people used to call us because they had squirrels in their ducts,” Garza said. “They would call us to get cats out of trees. But they started rerouting those calls somewhere else.”
It’s been an amazing career for Garza and one he will never forget. Still, he said, firefighting is “a younger man’s game,” which is why he will be hanging up his uniform next year and retiring to spend more time with his three grandchildren. Until then, Garza is up for anything.
“Whatever we can do to help the public and make their lives a little better, we’ll do it,” he said.