Chad Cooper has been running after fires since he was a little boy — and plans to do so until he retires.
As one of Prince Rupert’s newest firefighters, and current deputy fire chief, residents can feel a little more at ease when a fire erupts.
To say he has a diverse background would be an understatement. Before he even started any formal firefighter training, Cooper was way ahead of the rest.
“I grew up in a fire station. I got the bug right from the beginning,” Cooper explained.
His father was a volunteer firefighter in Alberta and spent his days growing up at the firehall.
“It was awesome. Seeing all the family dynamic between all the firefighters. We’d invite their families down and have big dinners and it was just a big tight-knit community,” Cooper said.
After spending his childhood riding alongside with his father to fire calls, he joined the military after graduating high school to build his resume. Fire departments, back then, preferred their new recruits to be more mature and have some life experience, he said.
After three years in the military, Cooper graduated firefighter school and set off on a years-long adventure.
He’s chased infernos around the world. From his home town of Lethbridge Alta., to the Middle East and Central Asia, he plied his trade in the most extreme environments and circumstances.
From putting out flames in bone chilling -40 C weather in Manitoba to sweltering 40 C heat in the Abu Dhabi desert and under rocket and gunfire in Kandahar, there’s little Cooper has not seen or done in the firefighting profession.
Curiously, what Cooper has learned over the years to be the best defence against fires in your home is to close your doors, especially if you leave your home on vacation. Fires require continuous oxygen to spread, so, sleeping with door closed can save your life, he said. It’s one of the best ways to prevent the spread of fire.
After working under so many years in such extreme circumstances and in such as challenging profession, Cooper finds it hard to put to words of what frightens him.
Surprisingly, it’s a house fire in his own household if he’s not there. His fear isn’t due to the quality of the firefighters responding, but due to the lack of control he would have from being absent in the response team.
Cooper ultimately decided Prince Rupert will be the last firehall that he will call his own.
“I’m going to finish my career in Rupert,” Copper said. “We have an awesome group of firefighters [who] are super dedicated and extremely professional. We’re well-supported in the community and through council and city hall.”
He always wanted to move to B.C., to live beside the mountains and take advantage of the beautiful wilderness — which he often goes on 10-day hunting excursion all by himself. The town itself is also a big plus for him.
“Rupert’s awesome. Everyone here is super friendly. There’s not too many places where you can drive down the road and have 10 people wave at you,” he said.
Norman Galimski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View