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Roanoke Rapids Fire Chief Stacy Coggins was looking for a job when he decided to become a firefighter.

It became a career.

His last day with the Roanoke Rapids Fire Department will be December 3. His retirement day is December 31.

Tuesday marked exactly 29 years with the fire department, a career which began with a job.

He graduated Roanoke Rapids High School in 1987, “not having a clue as what I wanted to do with my life. Since my grandfather Harvey Coggins and my brother Harvey Coggins Jr. were firefighters, I figured I would give it a shot.”

His grandfather made it a career and retired with the RRFD. His brother worked six to seven years there.

Said Coggins: “Not knowing what I was getting into, I went to rookie school in Wilson. When I found this job exciting and fulfilling as it continued, it became a career where with the help of other firefighters I could make a positive difference in the lives of citizens.”

Coggins remained a firefighter for six to seven years before becoming an engineer, who is responsible for driving the fire truck. He would later become a lieutenant which is a station supervisor.

For the past 12 years he has been in the office as either deputy chief, interim chief or chief.

In his career, he said, “I’ve had the opportunity to work with great individuals who have been instrumental in shaping the man I am today.”

He describes the man he is today as one “who tries to put others before himself. I fall short quite often. Some of the leadership I’ve had the fortune to work with taught me to lead by example, be true to myself and try to have a servant’s heart.”

It has been a career where the most heart wrenching moments have been those where people, “especially small children … succumbed to smoke inhalation as well as burns.”

In the past, Coggins said, firefighters were told to suck it up when those moments occurred. In the evolving culture of fire service, they are now encouraged to talk about it with other firefighters or seek professional help. “Memories like that will stay with you the rest of your life but you can’t constantly dwell upon them.”

One of the best moments was when Zachary Tillery was rescued from a 2017 fire on Franklin Street and continues to recover from the severe injuries he sustained. “I’ve witnessed many saves although I didn’t have any in my career. The best moments to me is the camaraderie of firefighters after a job well done.”

Retiring at 50, Coggins will have more time to spend with his family, one son who will be graduating high school and one who is currently in tenth grade. “Being able to retire when Ayden and Braxton are home enables me to spend quality time with them before college.”

He credits the homelife with helping him. “Without my wife Angela and the grace of God, none of this would have been possible.”

Beyond family, he will also keep busy in retirement by working at New Day Fitness as a personal trainer; working with Celebrate Recovery and teaching through the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal.

“Exercising and staying physically fit has been a priority of mine since taking conditioning at Roanoke Rapids High School. I’ve been exercising regularly for the last 32 years.”

Work through Celebrate Recovery, which has already began, is personal. “Back in 2005 I realized alcohol was causing major problems in my personal and professional life. I was introduced to a fellowship that helps people with alcoholism and taught a new way to live in return for me passing the message onto others who are struggling with alcoholism.”

Coggins declined to discuss intimate details of his struggle but said, “I would like to think that I live a principle-centered life rather than one being run by emotions and feelings. I’m fortunate I no longer have a desire to drink alcohol for which I believe God has removed the desire.”

For the OSFM he plans to teach leadership and officer development.

Over the years, Coggins said, “I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. I’ve seen tragedy and joy. I’ve seen people come together for causes bigger than themselves.”