By Pamela Cody
Special to the PRESS
Laguna Vista has a new fire chief, as Robert J. Drapela assumed the position on July 17.
For a young man, Drapela, 31, has an impressive background of training and service. He served in the Coast Guard for 11 years and is currently an active duty member on South Padre Island. He has been an EMT for 12 years, and also held the position of fire chief in Fairfax County, Virginia before being transferred to Texas by the Coast Guard.
The fire chief job is a part-time position, so Drapela serves on an as-needed basis. Drapela has been an avid firefighter since age 15. Hailing from El Campo, Texas, he was in the Explorers there, then at around age 16, he joined a volunteer fire department in a nearby town. He worked as an EMS while attending a fire academy at a junior college, then joined the Coast Guard.
Drapela’s wife, Angelita, is a volunteer firefighter in Laguna Vista, and the couple’s three kids love to come and help their dad wash the fire trucks and help out around the fire station. “That’s our family time, they enjoy it,” said Drapela. “It’s our way to get out of the house. I don’t go out to the bars at night, I’m not a big sports guy, this is what I do.”
Often firefighting is a family legacy, with generations serving, but not so with Drapela. “I’m the only one in my family that’s been in the military or the fire department. Growing up, the fire department was kind of my home away from home. I felt like I fit in there.”
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