If someone sat down with a pen and paper and was told to describe Durham Fire Department Chief Corey Landry in a sentence or two, they would find the task nearly impossible.
A 29-year veteran in the fire services, Landry never thought he’d find his way up the ranks to being a department chief. With much of his childhood being spent at his neighbors’ house who’s father, Chuck Mone, was a lieutenant for the Dover Fire Department, Landry had the childhood dream to one day jump aboard a legendary red truck, combat fires and ensure the safety of his community. Now, after years of stacking an elaborate and in-depth resume, Landry not only battles to ensure the overall safety of the community, but as the tier one leader of the Durham Fire Department, he must also ensure the well-being of the men and women serving under him.
The youngest in his family, Landry said that he was born into a blue-collar household with three brothers and a sister in neighboring Dover. Residing in a house on the same street as the police station, he played football into high school and baseball with friends.
Landry said that his family life was “crazy.”
“I was the baby,” he said. “By the time I wanted to do anything I could do whatever. I think my parents were sick of dealing with the kids. I kind of had it easy I think,” Landry said while smiling.
“Typical fire service is a family event, it’s a family thing,” Landry said. “You know, so usually there was somebody in the family that has done it; father, brother, uncle. Nobody in my family at all [had been in the fire service.]”
“As I have looked at that over the years I always think, how did I get in the fire service?” Landry said. He said that his father was a church maintenance worker and a shoe factory employed his mother. “Where did that niche [fire ser-vice] come from?” he wondered aloud.
Landry said that the only exposure he had to the fire service was from visiting the Mone home.
“I grew up in that house,” Landry said, recalling how with admiration he told Lieutenant Mone that he was going to work for his shift one day.
“We always talked fire,” Landry said.
Landry said that fighting fires fell from his priority list as he grew older. It wasn’t until he became a photojournalist for Foster’s Daily Democrat in high school that he switched back to his childhood ambition.
Landry’s career in fire services began in 1987 as a volunteer fireman for the Rollinsford Fire Department his senior year of high school. Landry remembers a barn fire in Dover as being his first battle with the department.
“If I looked at it [the barn fire] now, I’d be like, ‘Oh, this is boring.’ At the time, [I was like], ‘This is cool, I’m going to my first fire… I get to pull the hose line, I get to flow water,’” Landry said. “It’s funny because that shift [Mone] was on duty, the Dover guys I had hung out with, they were just busting on me because I was so excited.”
For 22 years, Landry has fought countless fires, but he remembers a situation when he had been chief for less than three months where the end result could have been tragic.
“I thought it was going to be my last day on the job,” Landry said.
Landry’s unit was dispatched to an old white house, which was pouring out white smoke. He said that he initially thought the fire was going to be easy to snuff out. Upon his arrival, the Newmarket fire crew was already confronting the blaze and he sent them to the second floor after taking over as commanding officer.
He listed this scene as an example where things changed instantly; a reality that is always possible in his field.
“I looked at the building with light white smoke, I looked down, looked at my board [control panel] and then something got my attention,” Landry said. “I looked back up and now the white smoke went to the worst thick, black, [sic] heavy smoke I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Every firefighter made it out of the blaze unharmed, but two retired from the fire services as a result of that day.
The reason the fire became overwhelming was that a running fan was pushing oxygen into the house, which indirectly helped grow the fire.
“Our job is the unpredictable,” Landry said.
Landry’s life has not been spent only battling fires, but also fighting the harsh repercussions that come with his job. Diagnosed with stage four lymphoma in April 2016, Landry fought through the cancer until going into remission and eventually becoming cancer free by September.
Landry said that he is convinced the toxins he’s inhaled over his 29 years in fire service is what caused the cancer.
Now cancer free and back in full command of the department, it isn’t much of a surprise when he says, “I’m a firefighter at heart.”