To be able to dedicate 40 years of service to one institution is a rare milestone achieved by very few people in life. Not only did Jersey Village resident Frank Maher hit that milestone with the city's fire department, he was a central figure in both improving safety and service during that time.
Throughout his career with the Jersey Village Fire Department, Maher has served in just about every role from firefighter up to chief. He has overseen major events, including the purchase of the department's first real fire truck in 1974, the move to 24-hour dispatch service in the late 1970s and the introduction of EMS services in 1985.
"One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of was helping put together a fire prevention program," Maher said. "We go out to preschools and elementary schools and talk to kids about fire safety. It's grown into one of the biggest programs in the community."
Maher started his firefighting career with the Spring Branch VFD in 1961. He moved on to become a paid firefighter with the Houston Fire Department in 1968. He joined JVFD shortly after moving to the city in 1974.
Maher served with both Houston and Jersey Village fire departments until 2002, when he retired from the Houston force as a captain. Even though he worked full time with HFD, he also put in an additional 20 hours per week with JVFD.
As an experienced firefighter, Maher was able to provide training to recruits. Over time, he saw the department double in size and move into its own station.
"In 1974, we operated out of a metal building with no doors," Maher said. "It was just three walls and a roof. We had four bays—two for our trucks, one for the city's garbage truck and one for a front-end loader."
The second truck—purchased in 1978—is still owned by the department and used in parades. It was dedicated to Maher and former Jersey Village City Councilman Bill Smith, who worked extensively with the fire department as well.
Maher, whose son Zach also volunteers with JVFD, said he plans to continue serving with the department for as long as he can. He currently serves as an assistant chief.
"I'm not on the end of a hose or out there using the Jaws of Life anymore, but I am a good thinker, I have the experience and I'm always thinking of safety," Maher said. "I enjoy it, and I feel even at my age that I still have something to give."
JVFD Fire Chief Mark Bitz said he is grateful for Maher's service and hopes he continues for many more years.
"He is definitely an asset to this department and has been for 40 years," Bitz said. "His knowledge is invaluable. I know the volunteers in this organization look up to him as one of their true leaders. He is my right hand here, and there isn't anyone else I'd rather have in that role."
JVFD Assistant Chief Frank Maher played a central role in setting up the memorial at the entrance of the department's administration building on Jersey Drive.
The memorial commemorates both the first responders to the twin towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, and the Houston firefighters who lost their lives in a hotel fire in May 2013.
The memorial features a piece of metal from the twin towers held in the gloves of Robert Bebee, a HFD and JVFD firefighter who lost his life in the 2013 blaze.
"It means a lot to us as a department," Maher said. "It's strengthened our sense of teamwork and our dedication to each other."