“My new role with the State Fire Marshal is fire safety compliance officer,” he said. “I will be responsible for inspecting buildings that are under the State Fire Marshal Office — hospitals, jails, nursing homes, schools, etc. — in eight counties in northwest Georgia.”
Cox began volunteering at station 11 in 1987, going full time in February 1988. Working his way through the ranks, Cox was named battalion chief in 1999. In 2012, he became Bartow County’s first fire marshal.
“Bryan has seen the need for a fire marshal in Bartow County for many, many years. It’s always been his passion,” BCFD Fire Chief Craig Millsap said. “… What a lot of people don’t realize is Bryan has been filling that role for many, many years. He was just doing on an as-need basis as more of courtesy for the people coming in just to try to help keep the citizens of Bartow safe. But as the department has grown and the number of calls continued to increase, the ability for him to juggle those type things with his normal responsibilities as battalion chief just became almost impossible to do.”
Instituting the fire marshal office is one of Cox’s crowning achievements.
“The fire marshal office was one of the greatest goals for our department. We have worked hard for 23 years to get it up and running and now to see it was one of the greatest achievements in my career,” he said.
Cox’s successor, Gary Garland, will begin as Bartow County fire marshal March 10.
During an emotional retirement reception Thursday, Cox was recognized by the county and received his gift from the Bartow County Fire Department at the hands of his eldest son, Drew.
An emotional Cox told those in attendance that having his son follow in his footsteps topped his list of contributions.
“First of all, the greatest by far, as a daddy, is for [Drew] to say, ‘I want to do what you done.’ That meant so much to me and I’m proud of him for it,” Cox said. “… Out of all that, the thing I want to know is left behind better than anything would be my goal, I always said is to do the right thing no matter what.”
After almost three decades in the fire service, Cox saw changes come to the department.
“As far as BCFD, the changes have been huge. In 1988 when I was hired, we had three paid stations and a total of 23 full-time firefighters; this included the chief and assistant chief,” he said. “Now the department has 96 full-time firefighters, including the chief officers and around 20 part-time firefighters with 13 paid stations.
“When I started we were running homemade tanker trucks, and now all of the stations have state-of-the-art, custom-built engines and ladder trucks.”
One of the firefighters who fought alongside Cox for the past 25 years, Division Chief for Training & Special Operations Dwayne Jamison, recalled his first day with Cox during Thursday’s reception.
“About 25 years ago this month, I was driving to Euharlee, first day of work with Bartow County Fire Department. I’m going down Taylorsville Macedonia Road and I pass this house that’s burnt slap up. I get on down the road a little ways and just before Euharlee Road here’s another house that’s burnt slap to the foundation and a chimney standing,” Jamison said. “So I get on to work and the first person I meet is Bryan Cox. … We introduced ourselves and start talking, and one of the first things — I’ll never forget this — one of the first things Bryan Cox said to me was, ‘Do you believe in interior fire attack?’ I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ He said, ‘Well, good. We’re aggressive firefighters around here.’ I couldn’t help but think back to my drive to work, ‘Yeah, I seen that on the way in.’
“Brother, it has been a long and bumpy ride. We have bled together, we’ve sweated together, and we’ve even cried together from time to time.”
The relationships built through the department are memories Cox will treasure.
“The relationship that have been built both within and outside of the department, also watching a young person mature into adults in the fire service, [but] the greatest of them all is knowing you made a difference in someone life,” he said. “In the fire service we usually show up and meet someone on the worst day of their life, so if we can make their day better in some way, then we have done our job.
“The fire service is more than a job, it is a way of life. It not only affects us, but our families as well.”
His plans for “retirement” include more time with his family — wife Leigh-Ann and sons, Drew and Matthew.
“… They have sacrificed a lot over the past 27 years and now it is time for me to give back to them, and most of all as always making sure God is first in my life.”