Fire From Home: Canadian travels to Hopkins County to learn to be a fireman -- and he’s not the first one
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Brad Moore studies hard to do his best in the NeTRA Fire Academy in Hopkins County. Moore happens to be one of a steady stream of Canadian residents to attend fire academies in Texas.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

Feb. 26, 2006 -- If you were to meet him, you'd think Brad Moore was just an average fire academy cadet.

Three things, however, make him stand out: He's not from here, his former career, and his age.

So what the heck is he doing here?

Moore happens to be one of a steady stream of Canadian residents to attend fire academy in Texas. In fact, Moore is one of more than two dozen Canadians to follow the word-of-mouth reputation of Texas fire schools, in this case the Texas A&M System in particular, as well as the North East Texas Regional Academy -- Fire/EMT in Hopkins County.

Approximately 30 Canadians attended during the years the academy was offered through Texas A&M University-Commerce. Moore makes the third  Canadian since the Sept. 11 attacks to enroll at NeTRA, but he won't be the last. Two other Canadians from two other provinces attended the last class and two have already applied for the next academy which starts later this spring, according to NeTRA Assistant Program Coordinator Capt. Gary Rushing.

Due to the internationally recognized standards NeTRA bases its curriculum on, the program is often frequented by individuals from Canada and is known to generate the occasional out-of-state cadet, as well. When they complete the course and the Texas Commission on Fire Protection certification exams, firefighters can then apply for International Fire Service Accreditation Congress seals, certifications which are recognized internationally in most countries.

"He [Moore]contacted me a little late and put together the [application] a little late, but with some faxing back and forth and overnight mailing, we filled out the paperwork and got him here," Rushing explained. "He started a week later than the rest. We worked with him and got him some tutorial to help him catch up. He's a sharp guy, anyway."

In fact, Moore is among the top four students in his class, who from test to test fluctuate in placement among those top slots. 

"Academically, there are four guys in the class who displace each other for the valedictorian spot. Brad is one of them. He has some life experience down. He's not your typical rookie away from mom and dad for the first time. He applies himself," Rushing said. 

The appeals of Texas fire academies over Canadian schools include the condensed class time, reduced cost and hands-on experience, according to Moore.

The students finish the vocational fire academy in 4-5 months here and the EMS class in 5 weeks, as opposed to a year or more of college-type instructional fire classes in Canada.

The Texas classes are more economical, too, with tuition closer to $2,200 than $22,000, and many choose to take one of the three county volunteer fire departments up on reduced rates, which range from $800 to $1,000 for five months' stay at their fire stations. There, they gain more hands-on experience, responding along with other members of the volunteer department on a variety of calls.

Moore noted that fire classes are also offered online in Canada, but he chose to go through an academy to get the full experience and feel of being a fireman.

"Fighting fire is an integral part of the learning experience, being tested by instructors. This is trial by fire. It's more authentic and reinforces what you learn. Here, you're living it 24-7, doing so much more. Plus you get into living and staying with people, people dedicated to doing the job," said Moore, who currently resides at Arbala Volunteer Fire Department while attending NeTRA-Fire academy. 

Moore would not have had that opportunity had he remained in urban Canada while going to school. He said there are no volunteer fire departments working in such urban areas.

"I respond like any other volunteer. As an example, we had a major house fire at 2 a.m. recently. It was great experience I would not have had at a day college in Canada," he explained.

While it becomes apparent that Moore is dedicated to becoming a firefighter, his decision to do so is not as immediately clear. Like the typical academy cadets, he has a need to serve others. And, like most older cadets who have more work and life experiences than the typical 18-23 year-old students, he puts more time into his studies.

"In my experience, the Canadians generally fit in well and have been good students. So far, they've never failed, if they are committed and come with a sincere desire. They are some of our best students, as are students who come for a career change to a more rewarding career. They have a lot on the line."

Moore walked away from a 10-year legal career before heading for Texas to begin training for his new profession as a firefighter. Moore practiced law in his home country, mainly in civil cases, even with one of the three biggest firms in Canada and the largest in New Zealand.

He graduated with honors in 1990 from Queen's University with a bachelor of arts in English and history. He went on to the University of Victoria, working the last two of his four years there in the school's Institute of Dispute Resolution researching contracts. Four months into that, he also began work as a law clerk for Bell Gully Buddle Weir, Barristers and Solicitors in New Zealand.

In 1995, Moore graduated from the University of Victoria and became a litigation lawyer and articled student for Swinton & C., Barristers and Solicitors in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"I didn't really perceive what the law would be like until I was well into law school. Then I began to look at emergency work," Moore said. "I applied to 40 to 50 United Nations organizations, but there was not much use for a lawyer in that organization. ... They weren't concentrating on hiring lawyers for emergency relief work, they were struggling to get teams together!"

His resume also includes work as a staff lawyer for British Columbia Labour Relations Board in Vancouver for two years and for British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union one year. He spent six months in 2002 as an advocate in worker appeals for British Workers' Advisers Office. 

He said that his two-year appointment to the labor corps in British Columbia was a real eye-opener, sitting in on various mediation proceedings, drafting documents, doing legal research. He said overall, he gained a lot of experience, especially in procedural law, labour courts which involve a lot of between election politics, legal research, how judges think, mediation, negotiations, due process and learning to be a more effective advocate, listening to others personal stories. 

He admitted to trying on "lots of things" within the field of law, including putting his diplomacy and skill to work as legal counsel for Yukon Human Rights Commission, but he was always drawn to emergency work and relief assistance efforts.

As for being a firefighter, why not? His brother works for Toronto Fire Department. An athlete as a child, Moore welcomes the challenge of body, mind and spirit fire-fighting represents.

"It's a more tactile way of life, something where you use your mind and body," Moore said. "We grew up in the country. I want to contribute, to be of some use. My brother has been a firefighter for a few years in Toronto. He loves it. He's supportive."

Moore says his decision to change careers wasn't made overnight, but the result of many years of work and an inborn desire to serve and give back to others.

Even some of Moore's work in the legal field was an effort to test areas in which he could serve others as an attorney. In British Columbia, he volunteered to be the designated independent first aid attendant at the large law firm where he worked. He taught and trained others in first aid for eight years, and was a first aid community volunteer worker in the Young Men's Christian Association and in the trauma ward at Vancouver General Hospital.

But discontent with the level of service and help he was able to offer through these activities, he began considering a career which would complement the law, or something entirely different, possibly fire-fighting or medicine. After trying on different career fits through volunteer work and research, he decided fire-fighting was the best.

He visited many times with his brother as well as several other firefighters from various departments, sizing up fire-fighting as a career from numerous angles and vantage points. The camaraderie of the firefighters' brotherhood, physical and mental challenges of the job, and the opportunity to do work which truly helps others were selling points for Moore. It just fit.

"I like problem solving," he said. "The immediacy of the problems firefighters face is compelling. I'm certain I want to be a firefighter. ... In the law office I was the boss over others, secretaries and office workers, there was a desire for authority and power. In fire-fighting, my real goal is to work with others at this level, as a firefighter."

He said he believes the satisfaction in the job will be reward enough, and that at this stage does not see himself testing for officer positions in the near future and likely won't, "unless it becomes clear to me to move on up."

He will graduate from NeTRA's fire academy on March 16, then plans to stay at the Arbala station five more weeks to complete the fire school. He noted that if NeTRA offered a paramedic certification course in the near future, he'd likely stay even longer to complete that training before returning to the temperate climate of Vancouver.

"It's where all of my friends are," Moore said. "It’s where I hope to get work, but I will go where the opportunities for firefighters are.”

But don't let his new career choice fool you into thinking he has completely forsaken the law for fire-fighting.  Moore says that while fire-fighting will be his top priority and career, he will be able to donate time and resources at his discretion to and for legal purposes of his choosing for the good of others.

"Ideally I would like to use my [law] skills too, but I think I am going to be quite happy with this position. I can't imagine being so blessed and spending my life [not helping]. I'd like to be able to use my skills strategically in the future on behalf of select individuals and people.”

For more information about NeTRA check out: http://www.fireskills.com
Yukon Human RightsCommission: http://www.yhrc.yk.ca/ 

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