City of Victoria Fire Department engineers Joel Gomez and Raul Liendo, who will both retire this month, have been with the department long enough to remember when Fire and EMS were separate operations.
Gomez and Liendo both started as members of Victoria EMS, and when the City merged Fire and EMS functions in 1995, they both cross-trained as firefighters.
Gomez is retiring after 27 years with the City.
“Joel has been a huge part of the EMS development for the Victoria Fire Department,” said Chief Tracy Fox. “He has mentored and trained countless paramedics throughout the years. Joel will be forever known for his dedication to the profession and unwavering compassion for his patients.”
Liendo retires after 28 years with the City.
“Raul has been an active member of the VFD Special Operations teams throughout his career,” Fox said. “From EMT to paramedic and lastly engineer, Raul has excelled at every role he has held in the organization. We would all agree Raul was an excellent teammate and pleasure to work with.”
Q: What was it like having to transition to being a firefighter/EMT after being strictly an EMT?
JG: It wasn’t that bad of adjustment, only because we were so short-handed on paramedics that I would rarely see a fire apparatus for the first few years, so for the most part it was business as usual but with an added twist when we would respond to fire calls: We were now dressing out in full gear and would sometimes fight a fire as part of the other firefighting personnel.
RL: I was actually excited to cross-train. I do believe I was one of the first to sign up. When I hired on, I did hire in as an EMT-B (EMT-basic); through the years, I eventually became a paramedic. I enjoyed taking each step, but becoming a firefighter has also been rewarding and beneficial. Becoming a firefighter opened several new doors for me in my career as well.
Q: How has the Victoria Fire Department benefited from combining fire and EMS operations?
JG: We have more hands on fire scenes now that everybody is cross-trained, plus everyone is on the same page as far as training and operational procedures, which improves synergy amongst the team.
RL: When we were two departments, EMS and Fire, EMS would get dispatched to certain medical calls, such as a cardiac arrest or respiratory distress calls. It would have normally been just the medic unit (two personnel) and the EMT supervisor. By combining the two departments, on one of these types of calls, we were able to use more hands. This benefited us, the medic unit, and especially the patient. More hands meant our patient was prepared for transport more rapidly.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career?
JG: Balancing the merger with more continuing education to be performed and working with individuals who were having a hard time adjusting to being on different apparatus (e.g. medic unit), which caused a lot of the paramedics to have extra duties in assisting the brand-new EMT/firefighters in learning the ropes of the operations of EMS as opposed to only fire duties, which they had done for so long.
RL: My biggest challenge, or should I say challenges, have been our MCI’s (mass casualty incidents): the immigrant trailer incident, Hurricane Claudette, the flood of ’98, Katrina (New Orleans) and, of course, Hurricane Harvey.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
JG: Being part of national brotherhood of firefighters and just simply visiting other departments in other cities when I would have time and having them welcome you like they’ve known you for years. Great sense of mutual respect amongst peers.
RL: The most rewarding part of my career, of course, has been the camaraderie—which I will greatly miss—but also the ability to actually go out and help the injured and ill and to save lives.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in retirement?
JG: Enjoying more time with my family and experiencing new adventures (like the birth of my first grandchild!), being able to sleep in my own bed at night, hopefully healing my mind and soul from the horrors of my job that I have experienced and lastly being able to watch my team members I leave behind progress and grow in my absence, hoping that they remember all the lessons I taught them.
RL: I am looking forward to spending more time with my lovely wife, Rosemary, and my family. Also, I am looking forward to enjoying some of my hobbies, like woodworking, fishing and archery. Maybe I will take up golf again.