Saying he was seeking a new career opportunity that allows more time with family, Darren Brinkkoeter recently departed after four years as Canyon Lake Fire and EMS chief.
Brinkkoeter, 52, submitted his resignation to Emergency Services District No. 3 commissioners during their Sept. 15 board meeting.
“I was ready for a change,” Brinkkoeter said Wednesday. He said the decision was entirely his own. He said it’s not a
retirement — only a break that gives him time with his children and prepping for his next career challenge.
“It was a good time to do that,” he said. “It was also time for me to take care of myself, and spend more time with my children — those years you never get back.”
Comal County’s seven ESDs provide fire and emergency medical services outside of those in New Braunfels and other incorporated county areas. CLFEMS serves ESDs 2 and 3, which encompass 250 square miles of the county north and south of Canyon Lake.
In September 2017, Brinkkoeter, then a battalion chief with the New Braunfels Fire Department, succeeded Shawn Wherry, who retired after 17 years guiding the department into new technology as the county began a growth spurt that continues today.
“He did an amazing job,” said Don Wagner, ESD No. 3 board president. “In his four years he made many improvements, and we’re in much better shape now than before he came to the department.”
During Brinkkoeter’s term, Canyon Lake added more emergency fire and EMS units, more personnel, two new fire stations and expanded services to accommodate area growth.
Openings of the newest stations, No. 56 at 1150 S. Cranes Mill Road in the Vintage Oaks area and No. 54, at 8685 Farm-to-Market Road 306 in the River Chase area, were celebrated in the past year. Each facility cost $2.5 million to build, and another $1 million to equip and staff. CLFEMS now counts 76 firefighters, paramedics and staffers.
“We had a very long response times before these stations came on line,” Brinkkoeter said, estimating they slashed 25-minute response times to less than 10 minutes.
“We got a lot done,” he said his time as chief. “We had a lot less people when I got there. We we added the two new fire stations we purchased a ladder truck they had never had one before … I was proud of the way we worked.”
Wagner said filling the permanent position would take some time, but lauded the abilities of Brinkkoeter’s assistant chief, Robert Mikel II, now the ESDs’ interim chief.
“I appreciated working under Darren — he has all of my respect,” Mikel said. “We have outstanding professional firefighters and paramedics who will continue operations as normal. There should be no significant changes in how we serve the community.”
Before Canyon Lake, Brinkkoeter served 27 years at NBFD as an emergency medicine instructor, arson investigator, fire inspector, hazardous materials technician and fire marshal. As department historian, he helped create the New Braunfels Fire Museum in the city’s first fire station.
In 1994, he was named an Unsung Hero by the Herald-Zeitung, and later that year the Veterans of Foreign Wars selected Brinkkoeter as New Braunfels and state of Texas Firefighter of the Year. He received NBFD’s Medal of Valor in 2011, its Distinguished Service Award in 2012, and was its Officer of the Year in 2013.
Brinkkoeter said he’s not planning to apply for the vacant fire chief’s job in New Braunfels. He said after spending 31 years on active duty, he’s seeking something a little less hectic.
“I’m looking into something else that’s going to be a little different,” he said. “It’s somewhat related to the fire field.”
Brinkkoeter said his top priority now is being there for his three children.
“Two of them are in band and I want to go to their football games and this allows me to be a lot more flexible,” he said. “I need to do that, because I won’t get that time back.”