Brian Cook has always had a passion for firefighting. As a third-generation member of the Rockville Centre Fire Department, he has risen through the ranks with the hope of one day becoming chief.
His aspirations have now become a reality.
Cook, 47, a 29-year-veteran, is the new chief of the department, having been voted in unopposed in the annual election on April 6. He received 217 out of a possible 232 votes, and will replace outgoing Chief Robert Seaman, who will complete his six-year term on April 18.
Cook was unanimously endorsed by the officers and members of Reliance Hose Company No. 3. “It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working for the village and for the residents.”
In a closely-contested race, James Avodent edged John Griffin, 116-114, to become second assistant chief. Avodent has been with the department since 1977, and served five terms as captain of Defender Hose Company No. 1. He is a retired New York City police officer and works for a security firm in the city.
Cook, who is also an insurance fraud investigator, served as captain of Reliance Hose Company No. 3 from 1998 to 2001, and second assistant chief from 2013 to 2015. He has been first assistant chief, a position that is normally a precursor to becoming the department chief, since 2015.
“I’ve always, at some point in my career, wanted to be appointed chief of the department,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to it for quite a while now.”
Seaman, who will continue driving a truck for the department, said he believes it is in good hands with the lifelong Rockville Centre resident taking over. “Everything you want in a leader, he has,” Seaman said of Cook. “He’s great with the training, he’s great with the men. He’s perfect for the position.
Firefighting has always been a family affair for the Cooks. Brian’s grandfather James Haney was the chief of the Meadowmere Park Fire Department, and his father, Thomas Cook, is an honorary chief of Reliance Hose Company No. 3. Brian’s son, Johnny, is a captain in the village’s Junior Fire Department, and will be sworn into the main department in a year by his father.
“My father has been in the department for 63 years, and I’ve always been around it growing up,” Brian said. “It’s always been a part of my life, and he very much had an influence on my decision on being involved in the Fire Department and pursuing it.”
Cook said that one of his first goals is to make sure that his fellow firefighters make it home to their families after every call. To do that, he wants to make sure that they have the best safety equipment, as well as an updated bailout system in case any members of a team get trapped in a building more than two stories tall.
He is also looking to acquire laptops for the fire trucks that would provide up-to-the-minute information about any building that is the scene of a fire: how many disabled people live there, whether any of them use oxygen (which is highly flammable), and the location of possible hazardous materials.
“One of the most important things for a firefighter to do is something called ‘size-up,’” Cook explained. “In order to be able to size up a situation, you have to have as much information about that situation as possible.”
Cook was a co-recipient of a Town of Hempstead Firematic Service award in 2000, for helping to rescue residents from a house fire on Southard Avenue. He was also a co-recipient of a Lynbrook Elks Firematic award in 2005 for helping to rescue a resident from an apartment fire on Merrick Road.
Cook and his team also made news in 2014, when they rescued a mixed Labrador dog that fell through the ice and into the frigid waters of Hempstead Lake.
Brian lives in the village with his wife, Stefanie, Johnny and daughter Jamie.
Eric Burel was elected first assistant chief, collecting 171 votes. Burel is finishing a two-year term as second assistant chief and is a former captain of Woodland Engine Company No. 4.
Marty Murray was re-elected to a third term as delegate to the Fourth Battalion Fire District, receiving 215 votes. A 35-year member of Reliance Hose Company No. 3, Murray will represent the department on the Nassau County Economic Opportunity Commission, an anti-poverty agency.