SAC Alumni Highlight - Manuel Casarez
August 27, 2019
University City Fire Chief Manuel Casarez's passion for fire science began in an unlikely place, a gas station.
Casarez was born and raised in San Antonio and attending San Antonio College was a natural decision for him to make. When Casarez began his educational career at SAC, he admits, he didn't have much direction, but after working a night shift that all changed.
"I'm sitting there working at a gas station one day, and this childhood friend of mine walks in and he is wearing a San Antonio College fire cadet uniform," remembers Casarez.
He starting asking questions about the uniform and his friend told him that SAC offered an associate degree in fire science. The very next day he called SAC to sign up for the program.
When Casarez began attending SAC in 2001, he was surrounded by an environment of success, "It really helped me to know that there were people there to help me and show me where to go and how to register and to take this class," he said.
The classes were affordable and convenient, and it provided him with the tools he needed to succeed. During his time at SAC, Casarez became an untraditional student and had to balance being a husband and father, while working 24 hour shifts as a fire fighter and serving as lieutenant and union president for the Universal City Fire department while attending college.
Casarez earned his associate degree in fire science from San Antonio College in 2010. After receiving this degree, he began working on his bachelor's degree by taking classes with SAC and Texas A&M San Antonio simultaneously, and in 2015, he earned his bachelor's in fire and emergency services administration.
Soon after, he was selected as Fire Chief of the Universal City Fire Department where his job is to plan for the future and prepare his station for what's to come in the next year to two years. Although he still has the ability to respond to emergencies, such as structure fires, rescues, and auto accidents.
"Everything has gone full circle and it all revolves around San Antonio College," said Casarez, explaining that not only is he working in the same facility he once trained in while he was in the program, but he's been an adjunct instructor for the Regional Fire Academy since 2012.
He says his experience at SAC has "helped him put everything in perspective" as a Fire Chief. Casarez proudly acknowledged that 50 percent of the staff he manages are graduates from the San Antonio College Fire Academy and he's confident as an alum and teacher to stand by the integrity of the program.