Trey Rieper of Waxahachie was recently honored as Garland Firefighter of the Year. 

The Waxahachie native, who has been on the Garland Fire Department for the past 12 years, has not only excelled as a firefighter, but has served as the coordinator of the Swift Water Rescue Classes held in New Braunfels since 2005.

“We started out with 15-20 students in two classes each year,” Rieper said. “But through the years, it has really grown and now we have 30 students in each session.”

Rieper said he teaches students from across the state, including students who want to take the classes for continuing education. The Texas Commission on Fire Protection and the National Fire Protection Association sanction the school.

Rieper began his career in firefighting just before he graduated from Waxahachie High School in 1991 when he became a volunteer fireman for the Waxahachie Fire Department.

“Once I got on as a volunteer fireman, I realized that I needed to go to firefighting school,” he said. “I paid my own way and attended the DeSoto Fire Academy.”

Rieper is married to his high school sweetheart, who he met while attending Ferris Avenue Baptist Church (now Avenue Church), where he was active in the youth group.

“Stephanie was from Oklahoma and they moved down here when she was in junior high school,” Rieper said.

“I was in the eighth grade and she was a sophomore when we started going together – so I guess you could say she robbed the cradle,” he said with a chuckle.

The couple has two daughters: Kaitlyn, 14 and Amanda, 10.  Stephanie teaches algebra at the Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy.

Like all firefighters, he has seen his share of danger while fighting fires and mentioned a particular incident in Garland.

“We got a call one day about a fire at a muffler shop in downtown Garland,” he recalled. “My captain – who incidentally is named David Brown the same as my pastor – and I went inside the burning building with a hose. He said that it was too hot and we needed to get out. Just seconds after we got out the roof caved in,” he said.

Asked what he loves about firefighting, Rieper is quick to reply.

“I love it because it gives me the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

E-mail Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com