Wickenburg Sun, September 27, 2006
By Patti Jares Staff Writer
The small town of Congress, Ariz., has quite the volunteer fire department. The man who keeps it running like a well-oiled machine is Fire Chief Virgil Suitor, who admits it is a full time job.
“It’s a busy job,” said Virgil with an easy grin. “I tell everybody I’m on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unless I leave town.”
And Virgil leaves often, but it’s an extension of his busy life. A trained Emergency Medical Technician (EM’D instructor, Virgil teaches throughout the state of Arizona instructing communities in classes that extend up to three days in Basic Life Support, First Aid, CPR, Basic Trauma and more.
But as full as Virgil’s schedule is, he loves his job.
“If I would have known what it was like I would have gotten involved years ago, and I would be retired by now,” he said with a chuckle.
Born and raised in Phoenix, Virgil often drove with his dad through Congress as a boy, on their way to Wikiup during hunting season.
Years later, he remembered the town when he decided he wanted to get his two sons out o~ the big city.
“I wanted to get my kids out of the area, and this is where I ended up,” acknowledged Virgil. “It must have worked because I have two wonderful sons.”
Christopher resides in Wickenburg and is an ambulance driver for Life Line and Brandon lives in Congress and landscapes for Les Gingerich.
Virgil moved to Congress 15 years ago, and a year after he began volunteering at the Congress Fire Department. Soon, Fire Chief Tony Price appointed him assistant.
A few years later Price lost a bat-tie with cancer, and the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors appointed Virgil as the new fire chief.
“Nobody’s run against me, so I’ve been at it ever since,” mused Virgil. “So far I haven’t had too many complaints.”
The word around town is that Virgil runs a tight, well-organized department, with the men operating as a team.
Since he’s been chief, two FEMA grants have helped the department purchase a $27,000 air compressor and additional trucks.
The next big project for the department is an expansion, adding 40 feet to the north and 40 feet to the west of the fire house, building a training room and two more baysfor trucks.
“I hope to start that within the next four years,” acknowledged Virgil.
There will also be another fire station built in the near future. The developer for AnteI~pe Creek donated one acre of kind to the Congress Fire Department.
This month is a busy month for Virgil. He will be traveling to New York on a scholarship, attending 10 days of classes covering Crew Boss and Engine Boss, and Brush Fires. Then he will travel to Colorado for a week, taking classes in Tank Car Derailment.
In between the traveling he plans to do some elk hunting.
“For a kid who didn’t like to go to school, I’m an instructor and go to school all the time,” mused Virgil.
But he is pleased with his life.
“I’m happy with my life right now — things are going well for me,” he admitted with a grin. “I’ve been through some hard stuff but it’s all leveling off and I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”
Reprinted with permission of the Wickenburg Sun.
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