Burning Questions: A Conversation With Deputy Fire Chief, Buddy Brooks
By: Jan Morgan-Swegle
When I come across an organization that is extremely well run, I look at the leadership in that organization. I recently spent some time at Leland Fire/Rescue Station 53, located at 187 Old Lanvale Road in Leland, and can honestly say, Deputy Fire Chief Buddy Brooks and the Fire Administration team are an example of excellent leadership. The station crew works as a well-oiled machine. Each individual understands his role in the team effort of firefighting, and safety always comes first. The station is clean and in good repair. The fire trucks and equipment stand ready to go at a moment’s notice and heavy fire fighting gear is just a step away. The crew is relaxed but mindful that a call could come in at any time, and they will be ready.
Buddy is a second-generation firefighter and knew that this was going to be his career since he was around 8 years old. “My father was a firefighter, I grew up around fire stations. I knew I wanted to do this. I started taking classes when I was around 15 that would help me in this field,” he said. “When I was 18, I got accepted to the Wake County Fire Academy and worked with various fire departments in Wake County for several years. I was still working on my degree at that time so I had specific goals—become a fire fighter, get my degree, and advance in my career.”
Buddy was hired in the Leland Fire/Rescue Department in August 2020 as a Captain. “I was in leadership positions in Wake County even though I was pretty young. I had to step up because of the growth the area was experiencing, kind of like Leland is now,” he explained. “So, here I was in Leland, still riding a fire truck, still taking college courses. I had a strong interest in the business side of things. I used to run a chain of gyms, so I had some previous experience in business. I did finally get my degree and I enjoy what I do. It’s a lot of strategic planning and forecasting.
“I do a variety of things in this position and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy my job. I go to the fire station in the morning or to planning meetings. I try to get to various fire stations every day. It’s important for me to talk to the crews and keep the lines of communication open. After that, I work out and keep up with our training programs. I manage our social media account so the residents of Leland are informed about what we are doing for the community, so I stay pretty busy most days,” he said.
“I like to keep up on current and future trends in the industry. I spend at least 2 hours a day just investigating what other communities are doing that we could leverage off of to improve our community services. Things like our Senior Citizen KnoxBox program that provides key safes for the elderly. This is a secure emergency service access program. In case of fire or medical emergency, the program allows service workers entry to the residence without damage to the property,” he said.
In the midst of meeting and planning, Buddy also still goes on fire calls. Not as a firefighter, but to support the effort and keep the Town of Leland administration informed of the situation, how it might affect traffic due to road closures and how critical the situation might be. For large-scale emergencies, like the Grayson Park fire we had recently, he serves as Incident Commander.
In addition to operations, Buddy is also responsible for training and community risk reduction programs. He is also part of the department’s team for plan reviews for commercial building by making sure the building is up to current fire codes with the right fire suppression systems, access for fire trucks and the appropriate number and location of fire hydrants.
So is Leland keeping up with all the growth? “Leland is on the right track and headed in the right direction,” Buddy said. “We follow the guidelines and recommendations of ISO, NFPA and the Center for Public Safety Excellence to determine what we need in terms of the number of stations and the staffing level required to maintain a strong safety presence.”
“I grew up outside of Raleigh,” Buddy added. “We went from being a small town to a big town very quickly. I’ve experienced it before with the same kind of pattern. A town like Leland has to have a strategic advantage and we do with our location. We have to keep moving the needle forward. You can’t stay stagnant. You have to take it day by day and have a plan for the future. “
Leland may indeed be growing quickly, but with Buddy and his teams looking out for our safety in so many ways, I feel comfortable that we will be fine.