Residents Serving the Community

By:
Lucy Hudson, contributor

Cordillera Ranch supports the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department, with five Ranch residents serving to protect the community and surrounding area.

As you may know, Bergheim VFD (BVFD) is a 100 percent volunteer organization comprised of area citizens who desire to help their neighbors. The department is led by Chief Adam Hawkins who brings vast knowledge and experience based on a career-long dedication to this field, along with several firefighters from paid fire departments and volunteer firefighters.

The BVFD service area covers people, property and businesses within a 58-square-mile area (approximately 2,700 households), and ended 2022 with 533 calls — an incredible increase from our call-outs in the past two years. In 2020, our runs totaled 266, and BVFD was called for assistance 386 times in 2021. These runs included Fire Response (structural and wildfires), Rescue/EMS, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Hazardous Conditions, Public Assistance and False Alarms. BVFD also provides mutual aid to surrounding departments/areas, including Kendalia, Sisterdale, Boerne, Waring, Comfort, Bulverde/Spring Branch, Leon Springs and Bexar/Bulverde Fire Departments.

But what you may not know is that five of your Cordillera Ranch neighbors are volunteer firefighters at BVFD, and one is an officer in the department. These individuals come from varying backgrounds: a surgeon, an oilfield safety/fire response officer, two retired Federal Law Enforcement Agents and your current Constable for Kendall County Precinct 2. In short, these people commit their valuable time and energy after work, on weekends or in their well-deserved retirement years to ensure the safety of our homes in the hills. I would like to introduce these residents and recognize their desire to give back to this community.

Scott Farber
Role with BVFD: Firefighter/Physician
Years of service: 1 year
Day job: Plastic Surgeon

Why volunteer? I wanted to serve the community in which I live. I have always done so in my life with previous experience as a firefighter and an officer in the U.S. Navy. Service to community and our nation is extremely important to me.

SO, you have previous experience as a firefighter? Yes, I worked as a firefighter and EMT back on Long Island and in New York City.

What qualifications must a volunteer firefighter have? There are certain requirements that every member of the department must have in both medical and firefighting training. These are determined both at the national and state levels. We train all the time to ensure everyone is proficient in these skills and safe. We want to be able to serve our community in a timely manner and with the most consistent highest quality service possible. 

What has been your greatest challenge as a volunteer firefighter? Balancing time between work, family and the fire department.

What brought you to Cordillera Ranch? It’s just better out here. Where else in the country can you find a place like this? Quite the change from living in New York City, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. We love the area, the community, the views and Texas!

Lucy C. Hudson
Role with BVFD: Firefighter, Engineer, EMT, Public Information Officer
Years of service: 3 years
Day job? The Bergheim Fire Department. I’m retired. I feel blessed that my husband and I discovered the need for “mature” volunteers at the fire department. Those who know me understand that I use “mature” loosely. 

Why volunteer? Volunteerism was instilled in me at a very young age. I spent many trips with my grandparents, traveling, spending time with, and providing goods to families and orphaned children. I love helping and giving back and saw the greatest need for help in the Bergheim area was at our volunteer fire department. There are no paid 24/7 firefighters at the Bergheim VFD. At our department, volunteer firefighters are on call 24/7. We are notified via Active 911 to fire and other first responder emergency needs; we then check in and report to the station. Working shifts is not feasible due to several factors, two factors being volunteer availability and unknown time of calls. 

How did you become a volunteer firefighter? I have no prior firefighter experience. After hearing Chief Hawkins speak at a Nature Club meeting, we saw a need and wanted to help. We asked the Chief if he would be interested in “two old farts.” He said, “Yes, and I need people to drive the engines and pump the water.” We’re glad he took a chance on us. We obtained licensing, in-house engineer and pump operator training, and now that Covid is over, I hope to attend formal pump operator training. 

What qualifications must a volunteer firefighter have? As a volunteer firefighter for Bergheim — Commitment, motivation, continuous learning and a desire to provide Bergheim and its surrounding areas with quality services.  

The work is physically and emotionally challenging, and can be dangerous. It is also extremely rewarding. I applaud anyone who chooses to be a volunteer firefighter. These folks donate their time to protect and serve others to keep our community safe. I’ve built great relationships and lifelong friendships. 

What has been your greatest challenge as a volunteer firefighter? Everything! Rapidly learning all new skills and getting in better shape. I’m “vertically challenged” but tough and tend to dig in. One interesting part was being fitted for my gear. Steve from Metro Fire asked my size. I responded, “short and stout,” he laughed, broke out the tape measure and we quickly became friends. 

What brought you to Cordillera Ranch? My husband and I have traveled to the area frequently, looking for a vacation home. We stayed with a friend in Cordillera Ranch. I always joked with her that I wanted the right of first refusal if she ever decided to sell her house. That day came and here we are — Enjoying Ranch Life. 

Ronald S. Hudson
Role with BVFD: Engineer, Firefighter, EMT
Years of service: 3 years
Day job: Attempting to enjoy retirement

Why volunteer? I enjoy helping others, especially those in my community. The Chief spoke at a homeowners’ meeting shortly after we moved here and solicited recruits. He specifically mentioned a need for drivers and I thought, “who doesn’t want to drive a fire truck?!” Then reality set in because it’s much more than merely driving. 

Did you have previous experience? No, just a willingness to learn.

What qualifications must a volunteer firefighter have? A desire to learn, a willingness to get dirty and work hard, and a drop of physical agility and ability. All are welcome; we have a volunteer in high school, a couple approaching the legal drinking age, and several slightly weathered or gently antiqued. We have several professional firefighters working at various firehouses and generously volunteering their spare time here.

What has been your greatest challenge as a volunteer firefighter? Stuffing my long goatee into a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) mask, the ability to breathe in a fire is crucial and my obnoxious facial hair inhibits a good seal around the mask.

What brought you to Cordillera Ranch? We used to travel from Houston to the Hill Country to shop for a vacation home/getaway, staying with a friend in Cordillera Ranch and venturing out to different areas. When our friend decided to sell, we realized we didn’t need to look anywhere else; our temporary accommodation was the home we were looking for, after all.

Paul Knoll
Role with BVFD: Lieutenant
Years of service: 6 years
Day job: Currently Kendall County Constable for Precinct 2

What experience do you bring to BVFD? I served 20+ years as a police officer and more than 11 years as a fire explosion investigator. I have previously volunteered at the Colusa Rural Fire Protection District for five years as a firefighter, EMT, Rescue Squad and Fire Investigator. I am trained in Driver Operator, Vehicle Extrication, EMT Basic and Gas/Oil Fire School, and have logged more than 350 hours in Fire Explosion Investigation training. In addition, I received instruction in several Law Enforcement disciplines ranging from accident investigations and EVOC training to Interview and Interrogation techniques and Emergency/Tactical Response. 

How are tasks assigned among volunteers? BVFD is responsible for any emergency incident in the district. These include medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, structure fires, grass fires and general public assists. Each of these has multiple tasks that need to be completed. Depending on your physical condition, knowledge and skills, you are assigned to complete a task. An example is a structure fire. Not everyone enters the burning building. Some coordinate water delivery, operate the pumps on the engines, refill air tanks, assist in the management of the scene or direct incoming equipment from neighboring agencies, to name a few tasks. So, anyone who has the willingness to learn, works well as a team and wants to help protect their community can be a valuable asset to BVFD.

What has been your greatest challenge as a volunteer Firefighter? The biggest challenge is juggling your commitments and time. Most volunteers have a day job, a family and kids that demand attention. An understanding job, spouse and family that believes in the Fire Department is essential.

What attracted you to Cordillera Ranch? My wife and I were looking for a community that offered a little bit of land, amenities, privacy and a vibrant social scene. We were impressed by the number of clubs that the residents had formed other than those offered by Cordillera. We moved into Cordillera and have not regretted it for a moment.

David Strickland
Role with BVFD: Firefighter
Years of service: 2 years
Day job: Sr. Well Control Engineer with Wild Well Control, Inc.

Why volunteer? The main reason to join the BVFD is to help your community. The main benefit you receive is getting to join a family of volunteers who are doing their best to help the community. Everyone at the firehouse is very welcoming to new volunteers; the hardest part of joining is walking through the door the first time.   

What experience do you bring to BVFD? I had no experience at a conventional fire department, but I have worked in well control/firefighting in the upstream oil and gas industry for 15 years. We use a lot of the same equipment, just configured in different styles. In responding to oil and gas well fires, our main concern is controlling the source of the fuel (the well). We use firefighting equipment to provide a safer working environment by placing water curtains between the fire and personnel/equipment. We also use the firefighting equipment to reduce the risk of ignition if the well has not already caught fire. In most cases, if a well is already on fire we will not extinguish the fire until the last stages of the operation when we cap the well. A well that is already on fire is burning all the fuel in the environment and in most cases actually safer to work on than an unignited fuel source.

What qualifications must a volunteer Firefighter have? The main qualification needed to volunteer at BVFD is a willingness to serve and help others. The training they provide will build your confidence and skills to respond to whatever level you feel comfortable with. As you spend more time with the BVFD you realize what the other volunteers are doing and sacrificing to help serve the community. They will put you in the right spots where you can provide the greatest service to the community.

What has been your greatest challenge as a volunteer Firefighter? The biggest challenge of being a member of the VFD I encountered was overcoming the doubt that you don’t have the knowledge or experience to do the job. A lot of the calls we make are public assistance or medical calls. The department provides training and allows you to gain experience while working with other members. 

What brought you to Cordillera Ranch? Lynn and I moved to Cordillera Ranch almost three years ago. We knew we wanted to retire in the Texas Hill Country close to San Antonio. The lot that we bought was the first one that we looked at in the area. We kept looking at other neighborhoods and kept coming back to Cordillera Ranch. Its location of being close to the San Antonio airport and its setting in the beautiful Hill Country makes it perfect for us.

If you have questions about the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department, contact Chief Adam Hawkins at 210.885.2406. 

Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department 
BergheimVFD.org

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