Marshall Fire Department makes it happen

FireChiefCooperBy Becky Holland,

MARSHALL –For a little over 23 years, Reggie Cooper has been a firefighter with the Marshall Fire Department. The Marshall native has been the fire chief for two years.

Ironically, the husband, father and grandfather didn’t even originally plan to enter the fire services field. When Cooper finished high school, his goal was to develop a trade, so he headed to what was then called Texas State Technical Institute.

Cooper studied aviation maintenance, which would allow him to get his license so he could work at an airline to support himself and his family.

Along with a friend, Cooper went to Kelly Air Force Base. While there in 1991, changes in government and the nation’s economic led to the closing of several Air Force Bases across the U.S. Kelly Air Force Base was one of the base’s to be hit with the downfall.

Cooper said that he was one of the ones laid off. “I was wondering around in my ‘wilderness,’ and worked several jobs … I even sold vacuum cleaners  door-to-door.”

It was around that time  in 1992 that Marshall got a new fire chief. Kenneth “Buzz” Snyder arrived. Cooper heard Snyder talk about recruiting firefighters of all races on a radio show. “He seemed like the real deal.”

The rest was history – Cooper was among 70 applicants and he ended up in the top 12 in the testing, and was ranked number two in the physical endurance test. When the number one candidate went elsewhere, Cooper moved up to be the number one candidate.

He couldn’t have been happier. Coming from the Sunny Side community in Marshall, Cooper was excited about this new opportunity. “I was just happy to be in a job to make a difference,” he said.

In his short tenure as fire chief, Cooper has seen many changes in the department – including an intense focus on training. “I have always had this theory in each ‘rung of the ladder’ I have tested through to take what was already there and enhance on that, and make it better, and I expect each person who comes behind me to do the same,” Cooper said.

With a goal of ensuring the safety of the community, his firefighters and their families, Cooper believes in keeping his firefighters prepared for anything. There has been a decrease in fires during the last few years, which Cooper explained, “This makes us kind of at a low risk, but at the same time, we are a high risk. We do more than just fight fires, sure, but if there isn’t any fires going on … we have to stay prepared.”

One of the ways that the Marshall Fire Department has stayed up-to-date with firefighting techniques is through using its own resources. Behind the central fire station, there is a make-shift training facility. It is in actuality a trailer that the Chief Cooper and his men are equipping for fire simulations.

Cooper and his staff are looking into putting together a modern training facility equipped with a fire tower. They have researched costs and have looked into ways of opening the facility up to other emergency agencies, including the local police department and sheriff’s office.

“If we were to have a motto for the fire department, it would ‘make it happen,’” Cooper said. One of the ways that the fire department is making it happen is through the next civil service exam.

The next exam will be Saturday, May 7, beginning at 9 a.m. The test will take place at the Central Fire Station at 601 S.Grove St. in the community room. All applicants must register for the exam by Friday, April 29 at 5 p.m.

Follow this link to see the announcement and to download the registration form for the upcoming exam: applicants must register for the exam by Friday, April 29, 2016 at 5 p.m. For more information, please call (903) 935-4580.

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