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Zapata County bids farewell to long-time fire chief

Forty-eight years and many emergency calls later, Zapata County Fire Chief Juan J. Meza will hang up his badge and pass his baton to the next hero.
Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 7:01 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - The Laredo Fire Department recently said farewell to its fire chief, and now the Zapata County Fire Department will as well.

Forty-eight years and many emergency calls later, Zapata County Fire Chief Juan J. Meza will hang up his badge and pass his baton to the next hero.

After decades of service, Meza is announcing his retirement.

“I’ve seen it go from 120 calls a year to over 2,000 calls in the present time," he said. "I think it’s time to give new young blood time to come in.”

Meza joined the department on March 12, 1973.

In that time, he has worn many hats. In addition to fire chief, he holds the titles of fire marshal and emergency management coordinator, while also being a 2019 inductee into the Texas Division of Emergency Management Hall of fame.

“I’ve been doing it so long that it’s part of my life. This is my second home.”

His service has come with sacrifices, family time being the biggest one.

“They’ve missed a lot of good times because of hurricane season, fire season and all of those important calls you have to be around (for).”

Meza is a father of two, a grandfather of four and now a great grandfather. He looks forward to focusing on the ones he holds closest to his heart.

“They’re happy that I’m retiring. They don’t want me to work anymore, so they want to have me home.”

Meza’s watch will end Dec. 31 of this year.

Nine Laredo firefighters have hung up their uniforms as well after decades of service.

City of Laredo officials recognized the heroes, including former Fire Chief Steve Landin, in a ceremony held on Friday.

Copyright 2020 KGNS. All rights reserved.

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