Granbury Fire Chief Darrell has a sign in his barber shop that says, “Volunteer Fireman – Always Ready.”
He said that when he first started serving as a volunteer firefighter, he wasn’t sure he was ready for the worst that could happen.
Grober still felt a fear of that unknown factor when he went on his first call to a wreck scene as a first-responder. He said he took time to pray to God before he arrived – and he’s glad he did.
“I was pretty new, and I was going to be the one in charge,” he said. “I was scared how it was going to go. I remember having a prayer. Everything fell into place. I knew what to do.
“I attribute that, one, to God, and to the training that I’d had. That’s the important thing about training. You don’t realize, it’s there when you need it. When you get in that situation, it’s automatic.”
Eventually, of course, Grober was bound to come face to face with a tragedy.
“My fear was I would get a call where a kid got killed,” Grober said while sitting in his barber chair in the shop where he earns his living.
He said first responders arrived at the scene where a little boy had drowned near a boat dock. Grober said he and fellow Granbury Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Rick Jernigan teamed to pull the boy’s lifeless body out of the water. Grober said that afterward, he and Jernigan talked in private – and cried together.
“You don’t see firefighters doing it, but firefighters go home and they cry,” he said.
He said his Christian faith helps him deal with such tragedies, “because I know it’s no longer a person, it’s a body.”
He added, “Things you deal with in the fire department tend to strengthen your faith in God. You deal with a lot of tragedies, but you see a lot of miracles at the same time.”
A GRANBURY RECORD
Recent research showed Grober’s election to another one-year stint as fire chief – his seventh straight – is a record for the city.
Grober and former county attorney Kelton Conner, who served as Granbury fire chief in 1982-83, and from 1986-90, now each have been elected to seven terms as chief.
“But I’m the longest consecutively serving chief,” said Grober, 56, who grew up in Fort Worth but was born in Germany when his father, Bill, was stationed there in the Army. “I look at it as being honored to be asked by my peers to serve in that position, and as chief to be able to represent those guys is a big honor.”
Former firefighter J.C. Campbell said Grober is focused on safety, and shows good leadership qualities. Campbell became a firefighter in 1978 and worked with Grober several years before ending his active days with the crew because of knee trouble.
“I’m really impressed with the leadership he’s got,” Campbell said, adding that Grober’s strong effort to maintain the volunteer status of the department saves the city a considerable amount of money. “I think he’s very dedicated to the fire department. He knows the safety of the firefighters comes first. He’s done a good job, and I think the people of Granbury think he does a good job.”
If you spend much time around Grober, his dry sense of humor usually surfaces.
“He’s the type of guy (who) will joke with you, but when it comes to firefighting he’s all business,” Campbell said.
GRAB A HOSE
Years ago, before he joined the fire department, Grober noticed an older neighbor’s home had caught fire. The man was in front of the house trying to douse the fire with a garden hose. Grober took the hose and went to work. He said he went into the house and continued to spray water on the fire until firefighters arrived.
“The fire was running across the ceiling,” Grober said. “Poggie Ames was on the fire department. He started ordering me around like I was one of the firefighters. He asked what fire department I was on.”
Grober told him he wasn’t with any department. At that time, the thought of being a firefighter had not occurred to him.
“Poggie was the station captain at Station 2. He groomed me,” said Grober, who later became station captain, then assistant chief before his first election as chief.
Grober was elected as assistant fire chief in 2001 under Mike Cullum, and was voted to his first term as chief in 2007.
Even before he joined the fire department and later became fire chief, Grober made an effort to serve others within the community. He ran for Precinct 3-4 Justice of the Peace in 2004 and 2006, but lost both times to Judy Watson.
“I was wanting to get involved and get into community service,” Grober said, noting that he always felt the need to give back to his community. “When I got into (firefighting) I realized it was something I really enjoyed. It was a great way to serve the community, and serve with a bunch of guys who were like-minded.”
Whatever may come in the future, Grober expects to be in Granbury, helping others.
“I plan to stay on the fire department for the foreseeable future and serve in whatever capacity they want me to serve,” Grober said, who explained that the reward comes in knowing that firefighters can make a real difference in people’s lives.
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