Industry Employees Shine as Heroes during Navarro Fire
September 23, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji,

Two employees at Guardian Industries' Corsicana, Texas, plant fought the fires that ravaged the Navarro area over Labor Day weekend.

Bruce Adams (left) and Jimmy Coker have both worked for Guardian Industries for more than 20 years.

Bruce Adams, Navarro Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) assistant chief, has been working for Guardian for the last 21 years, and has worked the raw line, warehouse, shipping and on both coaters, he says. He has been a fireman for 10 years, and his three sons also volunteer for the fire department.

"Our latest fire on Labor Day weekend we fought it for about 20 hours," Adams says. "It burned 2,400 acres."

Jimmy Coker, fire chief for the Navarro VFD and a Guardian employee for the last 26 years, echoes Adams: "We never had so many fires all at once, but it's been a hot summer and been building and building and something had to burst …Over Labor Day weekend there were six or seven fires at the same time all over the county, so all the fire departments were busy and we had to deal with it on our own for quite awhile."

Adams recalls that the recent fire flared up for about four days, growing nearer to town, before "a miracle" occurred. "We were lined up in town with our trucks and people were outside with their water houses ... and then it started to rain ... it didn't put out the fire but sure did help a lot ... Now, there are more people looking at volunteering ... they don't take it for granted so much ...and maybe they'll help with funding."

On Labor Day weekend Adams and Coker were among the volunteers fighting the fire that burned approximately 2,400 acres in the Navarro, Texas, area.

Coker has known Adams for 30 years, he says. "He works alongside me. His two sons were on the truck with me, Daniel and Eric, and my step-kid David Shiner works for the fire department, too," he says. "The time I'll never forget is when we were at the fire station, watching the fire jump 40 feet above the tree line, knowing there was a whole town to protect. My parents live there, my house and my family and friends. Where do you begin? ... But when it busted through, we did the best we could."

Coker has worked in various positions at the Corsicana plant. He started on the coater and has worked mostly there. Recently, he has worked in the shipping department. He has been a firefighter since 1979, and first got interested when in high school and "hanging out with the trucks..." He calls firefighting his "main hobby." He became fire chief about three years ago, he says, and "that's pretty hectic. There is lots of paperwork, meetings and classes and training" in the eight-person Navarro volunteer force, one of 25 volunteer departments in the county.

He always wanted to be a fireman, Coker says. "People gotta protect what's theirs and help their family and friends and town...we can't just leave it to others. I get a good feeling helping out others. People show gratitude for what we do...when you contain a fire you save people's [properties] and we can all appreciate that."

Holding down a full-time job and heading the VFD is a "juggle deal," Coker says. "All of us are there to protect our homes and land. When you gotta go to work, you go to work, and others pick up the slack."

Jimmy Coker's barn was among the properties consumed by the Labor Day fire. "People gotta protect what's theirs and help their family and friends and town...we can't just leave it to others," he says of his work as a volunteer firefighter.

For Adams, "It's all volunteer work, so it does not interfere with my work at Guardian," he says.

Both Coker and Adams are long-term, dedicated team members, says Kurt Christian, Corsicana plant manager. "Their leadership is invaluable to Guardian Corsicana," he says. "Their community involvement is something that our founder, Mr. Davidson, encouraged for all Guardian employees. Guardian Corsicana is extremely proud of Bruce and Jimmy. As volunteers, they fight fires on their personal time - sometimes I am sure after a long day at the plant."

The fire did not affect the Corsicana plant. "Our box vendor lost some equipment, however," Christian says. "Additionally, a railroad trestle that feeds the plant with raw materials was destroyed. The railroad had it rebuilt and back in service in four days. We were very fortunate."

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