Jerry Corda has dedicated his career to his family's local ranching business, but many people identify him with another important role he's been playing in the community.

"I've enjoyed serving the San Antonio Volunteer Fire Department. It's been a rewarding experience to help the community," said Corda, 59, who recently retired as the department's chief, partly due to health problems.

He has been replaced by Ron Pomi, who like Corda, is a dairy rancher and one of the department's original volunteers.

Corda not only has served the local community, but also worked with other agencies.

"I've met some great people along the way," he said. "Fire service is such a huge brotherhood ... it's amazing.

"After 9/11, we did a T-shirt sale for the families of firefighters victims, and went back to New York City to deliver the money to them."

The T-shirt sale represented quite an effort by San Antonio, which itself is supported entirely by donations and fund-raising activities.

Corda, a native of Petaluma, and other family members joined the all-volunteer fire department when it formed in 1966, and he went on to serve it for more than 40 years, including 26 years as chief. He has seen it grow from a roster of six to eight community volunteers — albeit with help from people throughout the local area — to a highly trained team of 25 to 27 people.

"The training the firefighters have is much more intense now," he said. "And whereas before the department was made up mainly of older ranchers, it now has a lot of younger personnel who are interested in getting involved in fire service as a career."

He also has seen the department grow from one fire engine to six pieces of rolling stock, including four engines.

The agency's response area covers some 35 square miles and is a mixture of agricultural, residential and light commercial areas. The total response area actually has been reduced, since the Wilmar Volunteer Fire Department now covers part of the area previously handled by San Antonio.

Corda says one element of the department has remained the same over the years, however.

"It's the teamwork. San Antonio is a team effort, from the fire chief to the newest volunteer," he said.

Corda, a fourth-generation dairy worker, serves as an operating partner in the Lester Corda and Sons Dairy. He served two terms as president of the Marin County Farm Bureau and has been a leading proponent of agriculture in Sonoma and Marin counties.

He has two children and two grandchildren.

(Contact Dan Johnson at