CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With firefighters in his family, 21-year-old Colby Cooley has wanted to follow in their footsteps since he was very young.
"As a little kid, I have pictures of me in a Cub Scouts outfit in front of one of the fire apparatuses here," he said while standing next to an Annaville Fire Department fire truck. "So it kind of made me want to work in the firefighting profession."
It's a profession he tried to get a head start on while a student at Calallen High School by taking two, dual-enrollment firefighting courses through Del Mar College.
But by the time he sought employment at A.F.D. those certificates were expiring and he'd never taken the required state exams.
So he started volunteering with that department at age 19, and two years later he's fully certified in firefighting and as an EMT -- the later of which he earned just three weeks ago.
“He’s like a sponge," A.F.D. Assistant Fire Chief Stephanie Simmons said. "The more you throw at him, the better he is. He just seems to suck it all up.”
Cooley is now allowed to do almost everything the average firefighter can do, but he plans to grow his skill set by seeking advanced EMT and eventually paramedic certifications.
But why does he do it?
“Just really helping people," Cooley said. "Helping people is one of the things that I really wanted to do in my life, and the fire service has really allowed me to do that."
And from the sound of it, he'll be doing it at a high level for a long time.
“He’s got a very bright future, especially with our department," Simmons said. "He’s very young, and he still has a lot to learn. But he’s very willing to learn it.”