2/20/2004 12:00 AM
As he was growing up, Albert Perez, 24, always dreamed of being a firefighter, but thought that he would never have the opportunity to fulfill his dream.
Then in June 2001, Perez joined the TEEX family as a contract laborer, working in maintenance at Brayton Fire Training Field for the Emergency Services Training Institute (ESTI), while also working on a degree in Wildlife Management from Blinn College.
“I worked during the Municipal Annual School and afterward I saw what TEEX had to offer in being a firefighter, so I decided to take advantage of it,” said Perez. In September 2001, Perez changed his major at Blinn to Fire Science, and began to work and go to school full-time.
In April 2002, he transferred from maintenance into an industrial fire technician position with ESTI. As part of the training for his job, he took two TEEX industrial fire courses.
“Those classes really got me going,” said Perez. “I wanted to advance in my career in the fire service and learn more about it.” So for a year Perez worked and attended school, moving into the EMT training portion of his degree plan.
When he finished the EMT program in May 2002, he knew it wasn’t enough. He contacted TEEX municipal instructor Cary Roccaforte, also known as Chief Rock, to ask if there was a chance that he could get into the TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy. He was accepted, took a temporary leave of absence and began training in August 2003. He finished on Halloween night.
“On the 12th week we were starting our call volumes, where we stayed here at the fire school for 48 hours straight,” recalled Perez. “When we got our first tone to do a fire—which we have to fight by ourselves without the help of instructors—we pulled the fire truck in front of the structure and had to completely rely on our 12 weeks of training.
“That was when it really hit us,” Perez said. “That’s when we knew we were firemen.”
“It was a great program,” he added. “All the instructors worked really hard with us. Chief Rock went into great detail about everything from ventilation to forceable entry. He was a great help. I really want to recognize the entire TEEX fire academy program; all the instructors were really good and put a lot of time and effort into our training.”
Roccaforte was also impressed with Perez: “Look at what he’s doing. He is going through a Recruit class, taking courses at Blinn and keeping his job. He does all this and still manages to keep a smile on his face and help those around him even in bad times.
“I don’t know what else to say about Albert other than I see him climbing that ladder of success in his future.”
Perez is now a certified firefighter. He has applied to Houston and is currently “waiting for their call.” His first choice is Houston because of the challenge the city holds for a firefighter.
While waiting for his call, Perez continues working full-time with ESTI as an industrial fire technician, where he is responsible for controlling the fires during training at the fire field.
“We control the fires by adding and taking off fuel,” Perez explains. “We’re also safety observers; we make sure the firefighters don’t get into a bind. If they do, we’ll cut back the fuel and show them what they could do differently.”
Perez will earn an associate’s degree in fire science from Blinn College in August 2004. He would like to work as a firefighter before returning to school to complete an undergraduate degree in Occupational Health and Safety, which he hopes to begin in the spring 2005. Perez says his dream now is to one day return to TEEX as an instructor.