Canyon Lake Fire/EMS made it official Feb. 15: Interim Chief Robert Mikel will replace Chief Darren Brinkkoeter, who announced his retirement in October 2021 after serving three years.
Mikel now oversees what is technically known as Comal County Emergency Service districts (ESDs) No. 2 and No. 3, which cover the same geographic area. ESD No. 3 owns the department’s fire stations and pays for staff while ESD No. 2 contracts with ESD No. 3 to provide emergency medical services.
Together, they include “some of the best firefighters and paramedics that I’ve ever met.”
Mikel served with the San Antonio Fire Department for 26 years, working his way up the ranks from firefighter to assistant chief before retiring in January 2020.
Two years ago, he saw an advertisement for the Canyon Lake fire department and applied.
“I started calling and talking and it just sounded like it was a place I’d like to be — and it has been,” he said.
Canyon Lake’s two emergency service districts are focused on providing high-quality services while making sure operations are financially sound, Mikel said.
“To me, that’s a perfect fit,” he said. “We’re all focused on the same thing. Providing the best possible service to the community in a fiscally responsible way.”
Canyon Lake Fire/EMS is responsible for a 260-mile swath of Comal County, including “a big lake” and a 10-mile stretch of the Guadalupe River that gets very crowded in the summertime.
“There are a lot of challenges,” Mikel said. “That’s one of the things that attracted me out here.”
His staff includes 87 firefighters, paramedics and administrative staff — and Mikel said he’s still looking to fill slots.
“It’s all one big team and I could not be happier being part of this team,” Mikel said. “It’s a very high level of medical care and especially with the long transport time they have to be good at their job, and that’s not always the case in a big city where you’ve got a hospital on every corner.”
Canyon Lake Fire/EMS responds to a broad array of calls, ranging from mundane requests to rescuing cats (and once, a dog) in trees to performing water rescues and supporting firefighters battling wildland blazes.
Mikel cautions residents his staff does not have any enforcement authority.
“We get calls from people worried about illegal burning,” he said. “We can put the fire out but enforcement of laws and codes is by the Comal County Fire Marshal’s Office. They’re a county-run agency, the enforcement authority that writes citations.”