On midnight, Oct. 1, 2003, Chris Gable and a few others took over the fire station as the founding members of Erath County Volunteer Fire Rescue. Now, 10 years later, Gable will sign off for the final time as a member and coordinator.
"It's a bittersweet thing," Gable said of his decision to take a job in College Station. "I'm really going to miss everyone here that I've worked with and come to know and love. But there are so many more opportunities for me and for my family there."
Gable will teach incident and emergency management classes to advanced students at the Texas A&M University - Texas Engineering Extension Services Emergency Services Training Institute. The classes teach students enrolled in the program the management side of a large-scale emergency situation like the Palo Pinto County fires a few years ago.
Replacing Gable is Chris Brooks, another longtime member of the organization and resident of Erath County. Brooks has 10 years firefighting experience. He's served most recently on the Oak Dale VFD and ECVFR, and lived in the area for a number of years with his wife, Angela Brooks, and their three children.
"We gave the guys who had been with us a chance to apply for the position first," Gable said. "These guys know our system and have already been running it. We felt, if anyone was able to take over smoothly, it would be someone everyone here already knew and who knew the system."
Three "highly qualified" members applied for the position, Gable said.
"The three applicants we got were all great guys. It was a very hard decision, they would have all been great in this job" he said. "I bet we spent three or four long hours deliberating after the interviews. It was really competitive, but in a positive way. I feel like Chris (Brooks) will be the best fit for the position now and going into the future."
Brooks said there is a great sense of camaraderie within the department.
"We were all in constant communication while the interview process was going on," Brooks said. "We knew that no matter who the board selected, we'd all support him and do whatever was needed to continue the progress and success this department has become known for. There's a lot of respect between the three of us, we really came together through this process."
Brooks said his passion for the department and for firefighting led him to apply for the position.
"I really hope to take my passion for this department and continue what Chris (Gable) has done here. This department has progressed so much since it began 10 years ago, and it's exciting to think that now I'm in a position to continue that success," Brooks said. "When I got the call that I'd gotten the job, I told the board member who called me that I felt like he'd just given me a gift. And I still feel that way. I've been a volunteer at three departments over 10 years and this job is truly a dream come true for me."
Brooks is working alongside Gable through Sept. 30 and will officially take over at midnight on Oct. 1, just as Gable did 10 years ago.
"I'm going to cut off this radio at 12 a.m. on October 1 and not one second before," Gable said.
Turning to Brooks with a smile, he concluded. "And you ain't getting it a second before then!"