Assistant fire chief retires after 30 years

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — After 30 years on the job, Assistant Fire Chief Juan Loya has hung up his fire hat for good.

It was a heartfelt moment for Loya and city officials at the last City Council meeting. Loya accepted an award of appreciation from Mayor Bharat Patel on behalf of the city and Council for all of his hard work and dedicated service to South Padre Island.

“He’s just a great guy, and did a great service for the city,” Patel said.

Loya was there for almost every emergency.

He was one of the first responders when the causeway collapsed in 2001 and he was on duty for many other accidents doing his job the best he could.

“He’s a very outstanding, honest man and I wish him well in his retirement.” Patel said. “He’s always been good, and we’re not happy to see him go, but everybody has to retire at some time.”

In his street cloths at the city meeting, it was difficult to recognize Loya. He wasn’t in his traditional blues — as he always had been as the assistant fire chief over the years.

He was very low key at the meeting, but that has been his character throughout his career and it lasted to the very end.

He hugged and kissed his wife before he went up to receive he recognition and award from the city.

“He’s just a stand-up guy,” Patel said. “He just hit it hard every day.”

Loya suited up every day because being a fireman was his calling in life. He knew at a young age he wanted to be a firefighter because his father was one.

Loya continued the line of family firefighters. And the proud legacy his father started continues as Loya’s son and nephews also are firefighters at other departments around the Rio Grande Valley.

At the meeting, the Island C-Shift firemen we’re in attendance to see Loya off to retirement. They made sure they got a photo with their leader before he left City Hall.

Loya was given long applause for all the hard work he did for so long.

“I feel great retiring from South Padre Island as a firefighter where I started 30 years ago,” Loya said. “I am grateful to the city of South Padre Island for all the support they gave me.”