Friday, October 24, 2014 • 06:47
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Capt. Rapoza settles in at Fire Station 73


October 07, 2013
After retiring from the Orange City Fire Department last October, Captain Alan Rapoza was looking for a change. In the last year he has raced off-road motorcycles, taken some classes, and considered being a lawyer, but pretty soon the itch for being a fire captain came back to him.

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Capt. Alan Rapoza is excited about his new posting in Valley Center and looks forward to sharing his expertise. Photo by Michael Crane / Valley Roadrunner
"That feeling that I had when I first wanted to get into the fire service, going to law school wasn't quite the same. I didn't have that drive," said Rapoza. "This is really my passion."

After 31 years of experience in the city of Orange — the last 14 of which he served as a captain — Rapoza is back doing what he loves but now at the Valley Center Fire Protection District's Station 73. He started at the station at the beginning of September when the San Pasqual Fire Department took over management of the VCFPD.

"I love it. I'm totally excited to be out here. It's so different from where I'm from or where I've worked for 30 years," said Rapoza. "I like the wildland aspect of it."

Although Rapoza is more accustomed to an urban setting, he has had experience fighting wildfires throughout the state and country over the course of his long career. He admits there have been some challenges adjusting to the rural mentality of firefighting, but the Valley Center firefighters have supplied him with a wealth of knowledge to ease the transition.

"I'm really impressed with the Valley Center firefighters, the programs they have here, and I know the other two captains feel the same way," said Rapoza. "These are highly trained guys. They are very aggressive and they are very gung-ho. They have a good outlook."

Rapoza still likes going out on calls, but he is most enthusiastic about passing on his expertise to the younger firefighters. A favorite saying of his is: "Train because your life depends on it, because it does." He is a strong believer in being prepared for whatever the next call may bring.

"My goal when I come to work is to make sure my crew gets here safely and at the end of our 48 hours we all go home safe," he said.

Rapoza currently lives in Corona with Judy, his wife of 21 years. He has two sons, Anthony and Matthew, who are both firefighters as well. Matthew, 27, has been with the Los Angeles City Fire Department for 4 years and is testing to become an engineer so he can drive the fire engine. Anthony, 30, was recently promoted to fire captain for the San Bernardino City Fire Department, one of the youngest fire captains that department has ever had.

"I'm real proud of both of them," said Rapoza.

When he's not at the station, Rapoza enjoys racing off-road motorcycles in the desert, a passion of his since he was 10 years old. He also travels around the county as part of the Lucas Oil Safety Team for racing series of big trucks. He is an avid woodworker as well, making cabinets and entertainment centers when he can.

"That keeps me pretty busy," said Rapoza. "On my days off I'm usually with a tape measurer and a notepad."

Rapoza is thrilled to be stationed in Valley Center and glad to be out of the big city politics and pressures. Aside from easing the transition from Cal Fire to San Pasqual, he doesn't have any major changes planned for Station 73 in the coming months.

"I've got a lot to offer these young guys, and that's why I'm here," said Rapoza. "My job here, besides making sure we all go home safe and do our job, is to train them to be able to take my job someday."

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Michael Robledo