Schroth retires from 55 years at BGVFD

Long time Buffalo Gap fire chief Frank “Hap” Schroth hung up his helmet and retired after 55 years with the fire service a few weeks ago, but that didn’t keep him from showing up at the scene of a grass fire near the eastern Custer County community on a recent Sunday.
“You can’t fully retire,” commented life-long friend and fellow firefighter Gerald Hanson of Hot Springs. “He couldn’t stay away. It’s in his blood.”
Hanson was just one of a large group of firefighters and neighbors who showed up July 19 to celebrate Schroth’s retirement at a party held in his honor at the Buffalo Gap fire hall.
Another attendee, Hot Springs fire chief Dar Coy, commented on Schroth’s 40- plus years as head of the department.
“It’s pretty unheard of for someone to be chief that long,” he said.
In presenting a plaque to Schroth in recognition of his many years of service, Buffalo Gap resident Raymond Hussey said, “Hap has been the fire chief of the Buffalo Gap Volunteer Fire Department for as a long as I can remember, and I’m not getting any younger myself!”
“Age is against me,” said the 78-year-old Schroth. “It’s time to hang ‛er up.”
Noting that he has seen a great many changes in his years fighting fires, Schroth said one of the biggest and most challenging changes has been brought about by the increasing numbers of rural homes being built in the area.
He said at one time a grass fire was not a big concern and firefighters could sometimes let the blaze burn itself out. But he said now there are homes everywhere that need to be protected.
“You’ve really gotta be careful,” he said. “There are gonna be more changes, the way people are moving in.”
Schroth is confident about turning the reins of leadership over to his son Randy who has taken over as chief. Randy said he has no intention of trying to fill Hap’s shoes and will continue to lean on him for advice because of the “wealth of knowledge” he has gained from his many years of fighting wildfires both here, across the state and all over the West.
“He had a hell of a passion for what he did there,” said the younger Schroth, adding that his father used his experience to build up the resources of the department over the years.
Randy said his mother, Loretta, was just as involved as Hap and over the years acted almost as an informal assistant chief.
“More than once I’ve seen her out there dragging a line or on the end of a hose or bringing what we needed,” he said.
Both Hap and Loretta were on the scene of that recent fire outside of town, with him driving a truck and her operating a fire hose.
With older firefighters retiring, Randy said he is grateful to see a number of younger people joining the department including two of his own sons, one of which will be his first assistant.
So, someday many years in the future you may read of a third generation of Schroths retiring from the Buffalo Gap Volunteer Fire Department.
They can’t stay away. Maybe it is in their blood.

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