Firefighter of the Year skips ceremony for duty

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Twenty-year-old volunteer Justin Cox recently attended the annual banquet for the Naples Fire and Rescue Department.

But, he missed the part where he was named Firefighter of the Year.

That’s because earlier in the evening, a house fire erupted in Harrison. When the Harrison Fire Department asked for assistance from Naples, Cox was among those who geared up.

“I was actually not there when the award was announced. I was out on a structure fire. My girlfriend was there; and she received it for me,” Cox explained. “It was definitely an honor” to get the title of firefighter of the year for 2012, he said.

Justin’s name was lit up in lights — on the message board in the Naples Fire Station parking lot. Cox said he was humbled, but isn’t letting it go to his head.

Firefighting is more about safety than being heroic, he said.

“I don’t try to be like a big hero. I am looking at it from a safety standpoint. For everyone’s safety, I don’t want to go into a structure fire like a bull into a china shop,” he said. “You always have to think about what would happen — every move you make. You don’t want to hurt the person that you are rescuing, and you don’t want to put your safety or the safety of other firefighters at risk. We all want to go home at night.”

Cox said the same stay-safe attitude applies to driving emergency vehicles to any call-out — whether it is a structure fire or a vehicular accident.

“You have to drive like a normal citizen when you’re driving. When you’re behind the wheel, you have to watch out for you and everyone else that’s on the road,” Cox said.

Serving on the fire department has been a learning experience.

“I’ve learned through what I have seen. I’ve seen stuff happen that puts other people at risk that you wouldn’t see every day,” he said. “Like heating the house with the oven, or operating a woodstove that hasn’t been cleaned for four or five years, or not having the woodstove inspected before using it.”

Cox grew up in Sebago, but has since moved to Naples. He holds a full-time job in Raymond.

The dream of being a firefighter has not been a lifelong one, Cox said. It wasn’t until he was a teenager attending Lake Region High School that this objective came into focus.

“I was interested in getting into this field all through high school. My senior year, my friends were all doing it and they said they liked it, and I wanted to check it out,” he said. “I thought I would like it. And, it turned out I love firefighting. I have friends from every department in the Lake Region. We’re all pretty good friends.”

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