Solomon no stranger to service
As Bridge City gears up for “We Remember,” a celebration of its townspeople in the year since Hurricane Ike, the man behind the idea says he just wanted to continue serving the community.
Richard Solomon, 64, is no stranger to service, being a former fire chief who helped bring in the new fire station and a new fire engine.
He laments the loss last week of Gerald “Jerry” Pesson, also a former Bridge City fire chief, friend and coworker.
“We fought tooth and nail in the city council chambers for a lot of things,” Solomon says. “When we got the new fire truck, we wanted it to be red but they wanted it lime-green. We finally decided we didn’t care what color it was – as long as the city was buying it.
“I still remember driving down from New England in that new truck. We had to fly up there, and it was the first time I’d ever flown. A new experience for a little boy from Bridge City.”
A Bridge City native, Solomon says that after high school he went to work in the shipyards.
“That’s what everyone did in those days,” he says. He also worked at the Gulf Refinery.
He joined the fire department in 1979 and worked there 25 years.
The department is mostly volunteer but does have two paid dispatcher positions (positions he helped create).
Along the way he lived for a time in a small trailer behind the fire station; and he and his wife Linda had two girls that, he says, “were raised in the department.”
“The fire department was our family,” he says. He and Linda got through Ike, but sadly she passed away in the days of their home’s remodeling process, shortly after the New Year in January.
He can’t remember the number of fires crews he served with, or the number of fires they responded to; but one in particular keeps coming back to him.
“I guess the worst I went through was having to put 11 firefighters – 11 of my own people – in the hospital. They were overcome by phosgene gas and one ended up in ICU.”
Eventually, the injured firefighters recovered.
“It was a very unusual and unique event,” he says.
After Solomon retired from Bridge City Fire and Rescue, he worked for the fire departments of Gulf Oil and Valero.