50 years at Crown Point

Cook cited for his service to the fire department

By  Sun Community News

CROWN POINT | Francis Cook began running fire calls on an engine that was built more than 70 years ago.

At that time, the engine was not particularly old — in fact, it was four years younger than Cook himself. He was 14 or 15, and he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his dad, a chief at Ticonderoga.

Following those early years, Cook, joined the fire department at Crown Point, where he has just logged his 50th year, seeing everything from the advent of thermal imaging technology to a suspected case of spontaneous human combustion.

In December, Cook was given multiple honors, including the Chief’s Bugle from his department, a citation from the county and his name read into the Congressional Record by Rep. Elise Stefanik.

Cook marveled at that. “It will still be in the archives 30 or 40 years from now,” he said.

Crown Point Chief Joseph Norton corrected him: “Your name will still be in the archives 200 years from now.”

Cook is still going strong.

This year, he’s run on 98 calls and 46 training events. By the end of the year, he had logged about 250 hours of public service. It’s interesting to him that such fastidious records are kept these days — many things about fire fighting have changed since he began his career, when the standing philosophy toward a fire was “surround and drown.”

Cook’s grandfather was a chief in addition to his father. Even so, it was not a given that Cook would continue the tradition.

Firefighters deal with tragedy and see things that no one should have to see.

Not everyone is cut out for it.

“My father always said there are some who can deal with it and some who can’t, and if you can’t, you best get out,” Cook said.

And fire never strikes at the most commodious times. Cook recalled riding on the backboard of an engine all the way to Moriah one night in sub-zero temperatures. It was an old practice, Norton said, of hanging onto the outside of the truck with a leather strap.

“We didn’t even have a strap,” Cook chuckled. “You just had to pray they didn’t hit too big a bump.” At the end of the ride he had to thaw in the cab before he was able to wrap his fingers around a hose.

Cook was also chief in March 1986 when a mysterious fire entirely incinerated a retired firefighter named George Mott at his home, yet burned nothing else.

The case caught the attention of paranormal investigators doing a piece on a phenomenon gathering a lot of attention at the time referred to as spontaneous human combustion.

“A television crew called me at the house,” Cook said. “I didn’t want to get asked a whole lot of questions, because I didn’t know anything about it.”

Mott was on oxygen at the time, and might have been trying to light a cigarette, according to an Unsolved Mysteries website.

Cook said he has no plans to retire, and credited his wife Jermaine for being understanding of his devotion to the company.

“We married great women,” he said. “She always told me I married the fire department first and her second.”

Read this article on the Sun Community News site here