While former Scotland County resident Brian Dunn has fond memories of the community where he was born, a move to San Angelo, Texas when he was a ninth grader, definitely has panned out professionally for him.
Dunn, who was visiting Scotland County last week with his father, C.D., was taking time off from his post as Fire Chief for the San Angelo Fire Department. The father and son made the trip back to Scotland County to allow C.D. to attend the 50+ year high school reunion.
The junior Dunn took time to visit with some of his friends from school and from around home, which was near Bible Grove.
When he gets back to work, he’ll return to the helm of fire protection service that serves more than 100,000 residents, covering more than 62 square miles. There are eight fire stations in San Angelo, placing Dunn at the lead of roughly 200 employees, including two assistant chiefs, four battalion chiefs, 12 captains, 20 lieutenants, 50 engineers and 84 fire fighters.
“All our personnel are trained paramedics, allowing us to serve a 1,500 square mile county area for EMS services,” said Dunn.
The service makes roughly 14,000 ambulance calls a year, which equates to 40 plus a day. They perform just more than half that many fire responses, vehicle accident runs. and other rescue services.
“For example, our storm drainage system has had some issues, and during a recent heavy rain storm, we performed more than 50 water rescues caused by flash flooding,” said Dunn.
Not bad for a kid from Bible Grove who said he never really knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
His father moved the family to Texas to run a shop. It was the time Brian spent at his father’s work place that ultimately steered him toward his career.
“There were several firemen who had race cars and they would come in to the shop,” Brian recalled. “I listened to some of their stories and decided that I might want to give it a try.”
CD remembers that Brian failed to make the cut on the first two hiring periods after submitting his application, finishing in the top 10 both times when only two new hires were made, before ultimately getting the call on the third go around.
“Funny how that works,” he said. “You have a guy here that didn’t get the call the first two tries and then he ultimately becomes the youngest fire chief in the state.”
Brian joined the force in January of 1990. He started as a driver for a fire engine, before earning a promotion to lieutenant. He later advanced to captain and then was selected as the department chief in January of 2001.
His role has changed significantly during his nearly 30 years with the department.
“I haven’t been on the back of a fire truck in a long time,” said Dunn.
He now serves predominantly in an administrative role, supervising the work force and dealing with logistics, although he still responds to two alarm fires or other significant emergencies, meaning there are still plenty of stories to share with friends back home.
Roughly a year and a half ago, his crews responded to a fire call at a residence. The emergency turned out to be a setup, as the property owner had intentionally set the home ablaze with plans to ambush first responders arriving on the scene.
“He basically was waiting on the porch with a gun to shoot at us,” said Dunn. “Fortunately law enforcement got him first. He is still waiting trial I believe.”
Dunn also was responsible for administering for the well being of women and children displaced following the raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch a compound operated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in nearby Eldorado, TX.
More than 400 children were taken from a ranch owned by the church amid allegations of sexual abuse back in 2008, in what is believed to have turned into the largest custody case in U.S. history. Dunn and his department were tasked with housing and caring for the “refugees” in the immediate aftermath of the raid.
Just a couple of examples of work place events that likely wouldn’t have found Brian back on the farm in Bible Grove.